Jez Lowe

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Jez Lowe
Jez Lowe 2011.jpg
Lowe on stage in 2011
Background information
Birth nameJohn Gerard Lowe
Born (1955-07-14) 14 July 1955 (age 64)
Easington Colliery
Occupation(s)folk singer and songwriter
Years activec. 1979–
Associated actsThe Bad Pennies; Jake Walton

John Gerard "Jez" Lowe (born 14 July 1955) is an English folk singer-songwriter. Lowe was born and raised in County Durham, in a family with Irish roots. He is known primarily for his compositions dealing with daily life in North-East England, particularly in his hometown of Easington Colliery. He attended St Francis RC Grammar School in nearby Hartlepool and later studied languages at Sunderland Polytechnic. He performs both as a solo artist and with his backing band, The Bad Pennies. In addition to singing his songs, Lowe accompanies himself and The Bad Pennies on guitar, harmonica, cittern, and piano.


Lowe on stage in Hobart, Australia in 1997
Jez Lowe performing at TwickFolk, February 2015

John Gerard Lowe grew up witnessing the decline of the coal-mining industry that had defined the region's economic profile for generations. A great many of Lowe's compositions address the economic distress that the North Country has suffered as a result of this industrial decline, and the social repercussions thereof. "Galloways," "Nearer to Nettles," and "These Coal Town Days" are among the songs that directly address economic conditions. In the much larger category of social impact songs, well known Lowe compositions are "Big Meeting Day," "Greek Lightning," and "Last of the Widows." (His song, "Last of the Widows", was written in 1991 to mark the fortieth anniversary of the pit disaster at Easington Colliery.) Numerous other songs by Lowe deal with the general issues of poverty and limited social opportunity in the region.

The song "A Lass to Want Me" was written after meeting David Miedzianik, an autistic man from Rotherham, in 1993. It was first released in 1997 on A Season of Changes: The Autistic Awareness Album, a compilation of songs about autism released as a benefit for an autism centre in Doncaster, and then in 2003 on an expanded reissue of his 1998 album The Parish Notices.

Recent projects[edit]

In 2006 Lowe contributed to the BBC Radio 2 'Radio Ballads' documentary series broadcast on Radio 2 as a homage to the original series of the same title pioneered by Ewan MacColl and Charles Parker in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Jez Lowe was commissioned to write 22 new songs for the documentary-folk series, which were not all performed by Lowe but featured guest vocals from the likes of Barry Coope, Bob Fox and many more. The series went on to win two Sony Radio Academy Awards.

In 2008 Lowe was nominated as 'Folksinger of the Year'in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, but ultimately lost the category to young Scottish singer and instrumentalist Julie Fowlis.

In 2015 Jez Lowe received two nominations for BBC Folk Awards, as Folksinger of the Year and for Song of the Year ("The Pitmen Poets"), but again failed to win in either category. He was on tour in Canada at the time of the ceremony, with James Keelaghan and Archie Fisher, under the trio-name "Men At Words".

Jez has an on-going working partnership with guitarist/singer-songwriter Steve Tilston, which sees them do thirty-plus concerts together every year, and which resulted in the album "The Janus Game" in 2016, consisting entirely of new songs written by Tilston and Lowe in collaboration.

Since 2011, Jez has been part of a quartet known as The Pitmen Poets, alongside Benny Graham, Billy Mitchell and Bob Fox. They have toured extensively every few years around the UK, and have released three albums of songs about the coal mining communities of North east England.

In January 2018, Lowe published his first novel, "The Dillen Doll", through the independent publisher Badapple Books. The story of the novel includes many references to traditional North East of England folk songs, many of which are included on a CD, also called "The Dillen Doll", presented as a continuous "suite" of music and songs which culminates in the song "Dol Li A", upon which the story is based. A second novel, "The Corly Croons", is due for publication in October 2019.

The latest series of the BBC Radio Ballads, "The Ballad of The Great War", will come to an end in November 2018. This series has featured more than a dozen Jez Lowe songs (bringing it to a total of over fifty of his songs that have been used since the "new" radio Ballads project began in 2006). Jez also provided the lyrics to John Tams's theme music for this series, entitled "The Cherry-Cheeked Optimists", from episodes two to five. An off-shoot from the Radio Ballads, a project called "The Ballads of Child Migration", also features three Jez Lowe songs and was released on CD in 2015. Two further songs were composed by Jez for inclusion in a BBC Radio Two production of Michael Morpurgo's book "Alone on a Wide,Wide Sea" in 2017, which is linked to the Child Migration project.


As well as the BBC Radio Ballads series, Jez Lowe has also made several broadcasts for BBC radio, starting with a series of five programmes in 1999 called "A Song For Geordie", which he scripted and introduced. It was a comprehensive introduction to the many aspects of folk music from North East England, and included interviews with Ed Pickford, Benny Graham, Vin Garbutt, Mark Knopfler, Annie Fentiman, Terri Freeman and others. One programme from this series was re-broadcast on BBC6 Music in 2018. He has also been guest presenter on the BBC Radio 4 series Open Country, for a programme about Tynemouth, along with other contributions to the series as an interviewee in the last ten years. He's scheduled to present another episode of Open Country later in 2019.


Note: All of Jez Lowe's albums have been released on CD with the exception of his self-titled debut album from 1980. However, the contents of that entire album are available as bonus tracks in the CD reissues of The Old Durham Road and Galloways

Jez Lowe
  • The Dillen Doll (2018)
  • The Janus Game (2016) a collaboration with Steve Tilston
  • The Ballad Beyond (2014)
  • Heads Up: 18 Essential Jez Lowe Songs (2012)
  • Jack Common's Anthem (2007)
  • Back Shift: a collection of songs from 1980 to 1986 (1992) [17 tracks. 14 previously released and 3 are live/alternative versions of previously released songs]
  • Bad Penny (1988)
  • Galloways Fellside FE 049 (1985)[1]
  • The Old Durham Road Fellside FE 034 (1983)[2]
  • Jez Lowe Fellside FE 023 (1980)[3]
Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies
  • Could Feet Again, Pet - limited edition Christmas album (2015)
  • Wotcheor! (2010)
  • Northern Echoes: Live on the Tyne (2008) (two discs – CD live Feb. 2008; DVD live Nov. 2007)
  • Doolally (2004)
  • Honesty Box (2002)
  • Live at the Davy Lamp (2000)
  • The Parish Notices (1998)
  • Tenterhooks (1995)
  • Bede Weeps (1993)
  • Briefly on the Street (1990)
CD reissues with additional tracks
  • The Parish Notices (Green Linnet 1998 CD)
    • Reissue: The Parish Notices – The Art Edition Tantobie 2003, with 3 previously unreleased tracks
  • Tenterhooks (Green Linnet 1995 CD)
    • Reissue: Tenterhooks – The Art Edition Tantobie 2005, with six bonus tracks from the 1994 album Banners
  • Bad Penny (Fellside 1988 LP)
    • Reissues: In the US (1995) on Firebird CD and in the UK (1996) on Fellside CD 1995. Includes an extra track recorded in 1988, but left off the original LP release.
  • Two A Roue (Fellside 1986 LP)
    • Reissue: Tantobie CD 2001 with 3 extra tracks recorded in 2001.
  • Galloways (Fellside 1985 LP)
    • Reissue: Musica Pangaea CD 1996 USA, with 6 additional tracks, being Side A of the Jez Lowe album, 1980
  • The Old Durham Road (Fellside 1983 LP)
    • Reissue: Fellside CD 1999 with 5 additional tracks, being Side B of the Jez Lowe album, 1980
Collaborative albums
  • The Ballad of Child Migration Delphonic Records (2015)
  • Banners: Music For East Durham – Jez Lowe and Easington District Musicians (1994)
  • Jake Walton & Jez Lowe – Two A Roue Fellside FE 055 (1986)[4]
Other connected albums
  • Kate Bramley – Fighting The Tide: a play by Kate Bramley (2002) (all 12 songs written by Jez Lowe)
  • Sight Rhymes – Jez Lowe & the Bad Pennies (2007)


  1. ^ Pohle, Horst (1987) The Folk Record Source Book; 2nd ed.; p. 265
  2. ^ Pohle, Horst (1987) The Folk Record Source Book; 2nd ed.; p. 265
  3. ^ Pohle, Horst (1987) The Folk Record Source Book; 2nd ed.; p. 265
  4. ^ Pohle, Horst (1987) The Folk Record Source Book; 2nd ed.; p. 265

External links[edit]

  • "Jez Lowe's website".