If the script writing boffins in TV land ever needed an artistic triumph over adversity series with a twist, they could do no better than looking towards the brilliant Bill Ryder-Jones for a gripping tale. From his early musical beginnings as a teen in The Coral, to taking time out from music to focus on his health, before bouncing back with a run of solo albums of such beautiful contemplation and tenderness they could have even the most hard hearted political scumbag in floods of tears, Bill Ryder-Jones has had his fair share of ups and downs. Now back with fifth album ‘Iechyd Da’ and a musical career that seems to be on a steady upwards trajectory, the Wirral wonder has pushed his song writing and production skills into stratospheric heights.

Songs such as ‘I Know That It’s Like That (Baby)’ find him reflecting on a past relationship, ruminating “I’m too much love, I’ll never be enough for you I know” over melodies which have an orchestral sweeping beauty to them, as well as containing a sample from legendary Brazilian singer Gal Costa, Ryder-Jones’ voice has such a delicate, fragile quality it matches the emotive melodies and arrangements perfectly. “So you’re lonely then, that’s when I hear from you” opens ‘A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart Pt 3’ revealing that the turmoil of a break up may have left him feeling on choppy waters yet the song writing places two feet on calm shores with gentle melodies which soar from sadness to uplifting, glorious melodies, like a soothing balm over an open wound. Elsewhere, ‘If Tomorrow Starts Without Me’ has a Lou Reed ‘Street Hassle’ feel to its opening cello bursts before unveiling a melody so tuneful even your window cleaner could whistle it, whilst the lyrics revel in a darker place entirely.

As Bill admits himself, he’s more of a competent producer these days, having produced Michael Head’s stunning album, ‘Dear Scott’, along with albums by Saint Saviour and Gerry Love from his Yawn Studios in West Kirby. His ear for fine tuning his song writing and sprinkling production gold dust really shines through especially on the epic ‘I Hold Something In My Hand’ and single ‘This Can’t Go On’, which is one of the best songs you’ll hear all year with its huge orchestral arrangements, and feelings of hopelessness merging into a call to action, bolstered by a string sample from a 1978 tune by the band Flashlight.

There’s more atmospheric wonder on ‘And The Sea’ with choirs, strings and Mick Head reading Ulysees over the top, whereas ‘Nothing To Be Done’ opens with harmonious string and accordion drones, before we find Bill contemplating “is it true the good guys win, even then I have no idea which team I’m in” and elsewhere “if it’s true, there’s really nothing to be done, I don’t see myself getting out of this one” over a mountainous musical backing which includes a children’s choir, with a hypnotic piano riff powering along underneath. It’s that combination of utter lyrical anguish colliding head on with amazing melodies and huge arrangements which makes lechyd Da such a brilliantly captivating listen. Each tune is delivered with such delicate vocals you fear the whole song could shatter into pieces at any given moment under the weight of emotion, yet Bill’s gift for raising each one from the depths of lyrical heartache by his  intriguing and sublime melodies, means his music envelops you like a warm cuddle on a cold winter’s day, and it’s what makes this his best album to date.

The Welsh phrase Iechyd Da means good health, and on this album Bill Ryder-Jones’ song writing skills are in marathon running form. It’s already a contender for album of the year and it’s only January! Melancholy beauty never sounded so uplifting.

Bill Ryder-Jones: Iechyd Da – Out 12th January 2024 (Domino Records)


From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.