Taken from “Dust Of Yesterday”, out April 16th 2021.
Songwriter and fingerstyle guitarist, Jason McNiff releases his 7th full length album, Dust Of Yesterday, on April 16th. Produced and engineered by Roger Askew (Joe Strummer, Wilko Johnson, Christy Moore) the album was recorded throughout the summer and autumn of 2020 in Roger’s home studio in Eastbourne, UK. It features McNiff’s signature acoustic guitar work throughout with significant contributions from Beth Porter (of Eliza Carthy’s band) on cello and Basia Bartz (Dana Immanuel, Rob Corcoran) on violin.
His first album since leaving London – McNiff is now based in Hastings – Dust of Yesterday is an elegy on moving away from a beloved place and a lament for lost youth. We are treated to a musical tour of McNiff’s life to date, from his 8-year residency as a Flamenco guitarist in a Spanish bar in Waterloo (Damaged Woman) to hopping the northbound train from King’s Cross, hiding in the lavatory up to Nottingham (A Load Along). All the songs on Dust of Yesterday, in one way or another, speak of the past. But it is not bleary-eyed nostalgia.
“I read somewhere that it is possible to literally change the past and I became very interested in this idea. It so happened around the same time that I discovered the Greek/Egyptian poet, Cavafy. In his poems he would talk about the past, but the memory is not a thing of the past, but something that is still part of him the present. I could relate to that. “
Musically, Jason is influenced by the British acoustic guitarists (Jansch, Graham, Wizz Jones) and the great folk/rock troubadours of the 60s and 70s. He loves Mark Knopfler in the early days; the English teacher turned reluctant rock star, singing about Leeds and Newcastle and sounding like JJ Cale. For McNiff, the lyrics are central, and he has been especially captivated by those considered poets and writers as well as musicians. He loves literature and cites Hemingway, Chekhov and the aforementioned Cavafy, as major influences in his work. ( He has ‘translated’ Hemingway’s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ into a song on a previous album, ‘Nobody’s Son’)
Jason McNiff was born in Bradford, Yorkshire in 1974 to an Irish father and Polish mother. Academically gifted, he did well at school and went to the University of Nottingham to study French and Russian. He fell in with the Folk & Blues scene in that city before moving to London in the mid-nineties to do another degree in English Lit. He was just in time to catch the Bert Jansch residency at the 12 Bar club. For 6 months, every Wednesday night, McNiff would be in the front row of Soho’s tiny club learning fingerstyle from the master. He would later sign his first record deal with Snowstorm Records, a label run by Bert’s brother-in-law and found himself opening for Bert on numerous occasions.
There followed a string of albums on various labels, including 2003’s Nobody’s Son (Americana UK album of the year) and 2011’s April Cruel (nominated for best alt-country album at the Independent Music Awards in the US.) He became interested in Italian music around this time and played all over Italy with the combat folk group, Modena City Ramblers. His brother is a tour guide in Vatican City, and for a spell, Rome was called home. He recently moved to Hastings in Sussex where he runs the popular Sundowner music event. Since March 2020 he has taken this online and is, at the time of writing, on show No.42.
About the track: ‘Try for the Sky’ is probably the best song I’ve written, and by far the quickest! It’s like I plucked it out of the sky already fully formed, giving me no opportunity to interfere, tinker, or spoil it in any way. Finally, i think I know what they’re talking about, the greats like Neil Young & Bob Dylan, when they say they don’t feel like the author of their own work. I certainly don’t have the feeling that I wrote this one. – Jason McNiff