Bradford-born, London-based retro-folkie Jason McNiff is now 43 but the autobiographical songs on his 6th solo album are full of nostalgia for when he was 18.
In the title track tells of an idyllic love affair between a medical student ('Joy') and a man with big, if imprecise, dreams ('Indie'). The two travel around Italy smoking foreign cigarettes and "making love every day and night" until she gets homesick. Joy returns to her studies but his troubadour spirit remains undimmed. There are no prizes for guessing that 'Indie' was and is McNiff.
Needless to say, Dylan is a strong influence and witnessing a Bert Jansch residency at the 12-bar club in London cemented McNiff's determination to pursue a life in art as a folk singer. This, after all, is a man who thinks Mark Knopfler is cooler than Kurt Cobain. He says: "I think in quite a conscious was this new record is intended to be an homage to a golden era of the coffee house troubadour".
Stuck In The Past is a giveaway title about arriving in London with very little money. This is a reworking of the song originally called 'Cairo' from his 2017 album 'Rain Dries Your Eyes'. In other songs he fondly reminisces about past loves and being footloose if not always fancy free.
The one song that doesn't fit in with these themes is based on the true story of Amanda Knox, a young girl from Seattle who, in 2007, was convicted, but subsequently acquitted, of the murder of a young Erasmus language student, Meredith Kercher in the hilltop town of Perugia. Although strong suspicions of her guilt still remain, in Amanda, McNiff accepts Knox's version of events and states unambiguously "you didn't kill that girl". In my view, the case is certainly not as cut and dried as he makes it sound and one thing is sure, Knox is no Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter.
McNiff is on surer ground when he remembers a girl as "fresh as the morning dew" (Midnight Shift) and shares other memories which give the strong sense that, although 25 years have passed, the idealist young man named 'Indie' has not changed all that much.
McNiff plays out with a Dream Of A Highway and although he sings "I long to settle down", this is one dream that doesn't quite ring true.
Jason McNiff's website