Nigel Mazlyn Jones

Nigel Mazlyn Jones, now this is another great artist waiting to be rediscovered. His album 1976’s Ship to Shore introduced a thoroughly unique take on the singer-songwriter genre. He was part of the second wave of progressive folk styles that Roy Harper, John Martyn, and Al Stewart sorta introduced earlier in the decade. What is so astounding about his track “Ship to Shore” and the album itself, is how he starts to transform the acoustic guitar into an instrument with so many sonic possibilities. Using a single 12-string acoustic guitar, he could use modulation and delay to create these aural ideas that the regular instrument had no chance of creating by itself.

In the credits of Ship to Shore, you see one curious credit: Nigel Mazlyn Jones on guitars, bass, waves, and vocals. Waves? As you hear him use a bank of pedals to transform an acoustic instrument into some otherworldly sound device, in the final 3 minutes of “Ship to Shore” you’ll start to hear the transformation modern technology was presenting to neo-folk artists. If you go way back in our neo-folk sojourn, musicians like Davy Graham, Bert Jansch, and many others would have only dreamt about, let alone think of such a sound belonging or being part of this new folk sound.

Nigel himself admits that his upbringing led him to this point. Born in the West Midlands, ever since he was 12, his interest in guitars pushed him to continuously practice different ways to approach it. While working a part-time job in the local zoo, he’d frequently retreat at night to pick up guitar techniques or jam with other guitarists who could expand his knowledge. Little by little he started to develop a unique glissando bow technique on guitar. By the early 70s, he had moved to Jersey to pick up a full time job working at Jersey Zoo, a beacon of beauty away from the truly grim city of Dudley where he came from. Shortly thereafter he moved to the Channel Islands to study apes and get involved in conservation efforts.

Ship to Shore album cover.

On the shores of those islands, he fell in love with the coast. Noticing how fragile and beautiful such a place could be, he realized that this is the type of environment that he can live his life and work to conserve. The closest habitable place he could move to was Cornwall. There he relocated to make his living as a musician. One can hear the transformation this locale sported on his music and how his technique and sonic experiments mimic the lapping of the waves. As he put it:

“Living near hundreds of miles of coastline is a good way of getting an overview on life. Getting time in my studio became essential after gigging on the road for over 3 decades across Europe. Being able to explore acoustic guitars, stringed things and strange clay pots and percussion with Guy Evans opened up lots of musical creativity.”

On the cover of this album you see him pointing out away from England’s beach head. There lay its future, with sounds and feelings coming further away from the shore. Listen to Ship to Shore at Grooveshark, and feel this sailor forging onwards, with a transformation that is coming…