British Ballads by Cardiff singer-songwriter and author Anthony Reynolds

Anthony Reynolds has his roots in Cardiff

Anthony Reynolds comes from Tremorfa, a suburb in Cardiff and that's where I know him from. But you can hear him doing his version of Bruce Springsteen's Streets of Philadelphia as Streets of Tremorfa on his Myspace site (link provided at the end of this article).

We were both part of the large number of struggling Welsh bands and singers who were looking for that elusive break in the world of music. We got to play the same venues and hang out with the same people. We got to share the same sort of hopes and dreams.

We often got to work with the same musicians too - Anthony and I have both performed our songs with two of the same guitarists. One of these, by name of Matthew Scott became a songwriting partner with Anthony and, by a quirk of fate, was rehearsing and playing gigs with me just before I moved abroad. The other is Glyn Kerry Groves, who by another twist of fate is back in Cardiff now just like Anthony. Glyn played on some of my recordings in the past.

British Ballads
British Ballads

Gypsy Blues Live in Paris 2002 by Anthony Reynolds

Anthony Reynolds moves to London

But Anthony was one of the only musicians I knew from that time back in the early '90s that did get the break he was looking for, but it wasn't in Wales - Anthony moved to London and got signed and I admired him for that. He knew what he wanted and went out and got it.

You see, I had known loads of musicians with high hopes and seen plenty of bands hailed locally as the "next big thing" end up giving up a few months later or contenting themselves with playing for a pittance and encouragement from their girlfriends and best buddies. Very few take it to the next step of getting released on a proper label and getting their music out to the world. But Anthony achieved that and I wasn't surprised he was signed because he had the talent and the charisma and his band Jack played and recorded some brilliant material.

This was after the demise of his Cardiff bands Boy and Misery and I had a demo cassette of some of Anthony's old songs of that time. There was one song I recall with the title Why Do Girls Always Choose The Worst Boy? - something I myself had often wondered. And another I think was called Bottle Green Blues . Anthony is known for liking a drink as you might gather from the Io Bevo video included here.

I don't know where that cassette went but I remember watching Misery in Chapter Arts centre's downstairs bar, a venue I used to play in too. It was small and the sound quality often wasn't that good but it was a live music venue in Cardiff and for that we were thankful. Chapter Bar gave local acts a stage they could air their songs and music on.

The Mean Fiddler

And I remember going up in a minibus to London with his band when they had a gig at the Mean Fiddler. I could see then that Anthony Reynolds meant business and was determined to succeed, so I was delighted to hear that he finally had done so when he signed with Too Pure.

Miserable names for bands were quite common in South Wales in those days and some of these acts also went on to much greater things - eg Tragic Love Company became The Stereophonics and were signed to Virgin by Sir Richard Branson in person, and the Manic Street Preachers were to become one of the best known bands of that decade. But it was with the simple one word name Jack that Anthony found fame. His next band was the same name but in French, so it was Jacques. Tipping his hat in acknowledgement to Brel I would think.

There is a very strong link with continental Europe in the work of Anthony Reynolds, with France, Spain, Italy and Portugal, and not surprisingly he has toured in these countries and built up a strong following there. Anthony has also worked with bands from Italy and Spain and the result of his recent recording with Italy's Hollow Blue can be seen on the video I have included.

Leonard Cohen

By now you'll perhaps be wondering what sort of songs Anthony writes. His influences are various and many, but there's a strong Scott Walker of the Walker Brothers influence on his deep crooning vocals and arrangements, in part a Jacques Brel lyrical style and the emotional depths of Leonard Cohen, the seriousness of Morrissey and The Smiths, the orchestrated melancholy of The Verve, and the continental passion and controversy of Serge Gainsbourg. David Sylvian is another artist Anthony has a lot respect for too and has helped inspire his songs, songs which cross genre boundaries. And perhaps experimental touches of the Velvet Underground?

Speaking of Cohen, Anthony actually got to meet the great man and is also the author now of the book: The Remarkable Life of Leonard Cohen.

There's nothing American or Canadian about Anthony's songs - they are all very British - the darker and world weary side of Brit pop but at the same time, especially the earlier ones and at times, enthused with an optimism and eagerness for rebellion, for sex and drugs and rock and roll.

Anthony Reynolds' music career has been a long one and has involved many bands and projects and several labels.There is an excellent biography of Jack published on Anthony's current label Spinney Records, which released his new British Ballads . Lately he has been working with singer and musician Charlotte Greig and for British Ballads he called upon a whole cast of special guests including author and philosopher Colin Wilson, and singers Dot Allison and Vashti Bunyan.

British Ballads contains a song with the title The Disappointed . It is a song that Anthony is very proud of and has said he thinks it is possibly his best ever. I would be very proud of it too. For me it has that mournful and haunting quality of Procol Harum's Salty Dog and I loved that band. It has strings by Fiona Brice, whom Anthony has worked with on many occasions and as a band member. It has the opening lyrics:

There is a sad sad song in the sound of a ship's horn blowing, and it don't matter if that ship is coming or going

We the disappointed, wings bound by cotton, dreams are sorry that we dreamed them, promised and forgotten...

Anthony Reynolds approach is eclectic so for him to have his guest Colin Wilson reading the words of poet Rupert Brooke's The Hill is an important part of British Ballads and the only part that Anthony didn't write himself.

The Walker Brothers

Anthony Reynolds is much more than a talented singer, musician and composer because he is also an author, a published poet and a photographer with an eye for the unusual and often with a lot of humour in his work. He has a book on the Walker Brothers called The Impossible Dream: the Story of Scott Walker and the Walker Brothers and he is currently completing another book for autumn publication about the late great Jeff Buckley with the title: Jeff Buckley: Mystery White Boy Blues .

Anthony has travelled widely in his career but he has returned to live and work again in Cardiff. He has performed again several times at Chapter Arts Centre after all these years, and at one of these concerts he was partnered by Charlotte Grieg with whom he recorded the new Bees Dream of Flowers EP.

Anthony Reynolds has come full circle in returning to Cardiff and the venue he once played in many years ago with his first bands. But he has just bought himself a new guitar with the intent of writing some new songs. Perhaps there will one day be a second volume of British Ballads . I'd like to think so.

This has been a brief introduction to the songs and writing of my friend Anthony Reynolds, who is an artist in every sense of the word, and if you would like to find out more about him please see his official site here:

http://www.anthonyreynolds.net/

http://www.myspace.com/anthonyjreynolds

Io Bevo by Hollow Blue and Anthony Reynolds

© 2008 Steve Andrews

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Comments 14 comments

CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK

Hi Steve, not heard of this guy before. Did I ever meet him when you were in Cardiff? He sounds interesting.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

I have told you of him before, Chris! He is a very good friend of our mutual friend the author John Williams. In fact in Anthony's Myspace gallery you will see portrait pics of Anthony that John took. And Charlotte Grieg who Anthony's appearing in concert with is John's girlfriend.

Not only all that but Anthony has interviewed Robert Wyatt - See his website for his writings and interviews. As an idea why not get along to Cardiff and meet him and see John again. I remember he was trying to sort out a gig for you at Chapter when I last saw him.


Chef Jeff profile image

Chef Jeff 8 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

Hey, Bard, you've introduced me to yet another great singer I will be looking to add to my collection! Thanks, my friend!


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

You're welcome, Jeff! Thanks for checking Anthony out!


craig lambadarios 8 years ago

isn't he the guy who asked his fans to send him (VALUABLE/VALID) tickets for

"Leonrd Cohens " last (probably) tour as a competition ?, and AR would vouch to be their best friend for the evening ... Hmmmmmmmmm dubious !

good singer he maybe , but what an a**hole .

any comments on that Bard , as i may have some of the detail wrong ...

BTW, your name dropping is getting out of hand AGAIN.....


craig lambadarios 8 years ago

i take that back , after listening i'd say he is an ok singer Very cohen-alike mimicry, and he should probably leave the guitar to someone who can actually play one ! seriously not very good but ok ....

ps. i live in Cardiff and promote music and manage a few top bands but I've never heard of him before // what record label is he on ?


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Craig, I can't remember what the details of the LC offer/contest are exactly but they are on Anthony's website with a pic of him alongside Leonard, and in his Myspace blog I believe. I think the idea was if you could get tickets for yourself and him he would accompany you in going to see Leonard and so you would get not only to watch the legend in concert but to hang out with Anthony as your companion. I'm a fan of both of them and would love to go and watch LC with Anthony but I have no money, no tickets and no way of travelling even if I did seeing as I have no one to look after my cats here and then there's flights! For Anthony's fans with the money its a great opportunity though.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Craig, please click on the highlighted text detailing his bio/discography given above and it will tell you all his releases and labels. Started on Too Pure for the Jack releases. Several others since and currently on Hunrgy Hill (part of Spinney).


craig lambadarios 8 years ago

I just think thats a bit of a cheek to ask your fans to pay for your night out , don't you ?

what about the people who sent tickets (if there were any) and didn't win ? did he give them back in time to be used or did he give them to his friends ?

It would have been a good compitition if his fans could have won a night out with him ,with him paying for the ticket ... bit of a rooose if you ask me , and NOT very professional.......

sounds like a right dick


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

I don't know what the outcome of it is, Craig. That's Anthony's business. Personally I think he is very professional and his career shows that he must be to have achieved all the things he has done and to have worked with all the people he has! Like I said in my article I have seen countless wannabes and so-called "next big thing" local bands that get nowhere after the initial hype but Anthony did what others talk about and got signed and he didn't do it as part of the "Cool Cymru" thing either and although he is a Cardiff musician that was not part of the Jack publicity machine. As a writer I know how damned hard it is to get accepted by publishers and Anthony has books and articles that have been accepted and published. He has an impressive past career record.


craig lambadarios 8 years ago

WELL, ok........ if that's what you call professional !

where did you say he was playing next ,,chapter ? I'll go see


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Here’s what Chapter’s brochure says –

“Singer, composer, writer, and Ex-pop art-throb Anthony Reynolds is a well-travelled Splott native best known for his many beautiful and obtuse recordings.  On his return to Cardiff, he is joined by folk chanteuse, author, and Norse icon Charlotte Greig. The show marks the release of their EP ‘Bees Dream of Flowers and Your Summer’s Meadow’d Breath (False Knights and Satyr Dazed)’.”

This acrylic watercolour evening will include songs from their expansive and quixotic song catalogues, a variety of filmic visual treats, and an arresting array of unscheduled ambient sonic excursions.  They will be accompanied by a full band, and by various special guests, chums, geeks, friends and accomplices. Join us for a veritable fiesta of sound, creaks, chiming, and willowspinney.

At: Chapter Theatre Saturday 2nd August 2008


eilander1542011 profile image

eilander1542011 6 years ago from Everywhere

You can tell he is a talented musician, just listening to his music can tell anyone that much. He may be a little too dark and world weary for me, but I am from American influences as well, so it is a known fact that Europe is ahead of us in pop culture. Nonetheless, as an artist/producer and audiophile myself I thank you sincerely for showing me a very talented artist.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, eilander! Anthony has just flown over to Argentina to promote his poetry book and he has a book on Leonard Cohen coming out soon too!

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