Diana Jones’ reissue of her 2009 classic scrubs up well and remains a powerful listen.
How to improve on near perfection? That’s the conundrum posed when one is confronted by Diana Jones’ latest album, a reconfigured ‘Better Times Will Come’ which is remastered, rearranges the running order and adds an extra song, recorded at the time but left off the original album.
‘Better Times Will Come’, originally released in 2009, was universally lauded and AUK has recently waxed lyrical about it in our classic Americana albums feature, leaving this reviewer with little to add to the main body of a new review as Jonathan Aird just about sums it up in his retrospective piece. For Jones, the impetus to revisit the album was sparked by fan requests to reissue it (including, for the first time, its availability on vinyl), leading her to delve into the original tracks with the assistance of Grammy award winning producer Steve Addabbo (his Grammy was for his work on Dylan’s Bootleg Series) who helped her cast a retrospective eye over the tracks. Together they remixed the songs and added a previously unreleased song, ‘Call Me Daddy’.
Jones says that the exercise reflected changes she has envisaged since the original release. As she states in the liner notes, “The songs have evolved for me as the times have changed while oddly remaining the same. The Iraq war referred to in the title track is now the war in Ukraine, ‘Ballad Of A Poor Child’ resonates as the world experiences another downward economy. ‘The Day I Die’ brings to mind the Covid losses we endured during the lockdown while staying apart from each other and Nanci Griffith’s voice is a sad reminder that she has left us too soon.”
‘Call Me Daddy’ is the previously unheard addition to the album and its hardscrabble portrait of a child in fear of a rambling gambling bully of a man who abuses her mother sits comfortably with classics such as ‘If I Had A Gun’, ‘Henry Russell’s Last Words’, ‘Evangelina’ (which Jones proudly notes was the song which led to The Guardian calling her a “hillbilly feminist”) and the magnificent ‘The Day I Die’, a song which holds fast to its original position as the closing song on the album. Aside from that closing song, the revised running order is pretty much a moot point with Jones giving no hint of why she and Addabbo decided on this new configuration.
There’s an irony here which Jones addresses. With the original album now 14 years old and stuck with its optimistic title as she relaunches it into a world which doesn’t seem to have moved much on, she admits that she “needs to believe in the title track just now.” Don’t we all.
Diane is currently touring the UK even playing a venue in Redmile near Belvoir Castle on 22nd April.