MAR 03 - Keltika Magazine (Italy) "The Silverlode"
It happens. Not often, but it does: a debut album by two musicians from the Leeds area, relatively unknown, at least here in Italy, which from the first hearing gives you the sensation of something very special. Possibly it’s the sound, which is particularly interesting, or maybe it’s the tracks, or maybe it’s the musical interchange between the “two Toms” (Bliss and Napper) who form this duo. Or maybe it’s all these things together... but either way this is surely one of the best albums that I’ve heard in a long time. We met Tom Bliss about a year ago, when “Keltika” reviewed The Slippery Slope, by Slide (UK) and Tom, founder and leader of the band, talked to us about his passion for the sea and the small island of Alderney, his taste for folk music and the musical directions of his band. And then only a few months later a new album arrived at our door, this time with Tom Napper, one of the best musicians of the Leeds area, who has more than 25 years of musical career playing with artists such as Tom McConville, Gordon Tyrrall, Jez Lowe (Dab Hand) and Alistair Russell (Battlefield Band).
Slide is one of the most interesting bands on the English folk scene, but Tom Bliss explained why he’d also formed the duo with Tom Napper: “The big difference with Slide is that the duo is much simpler - there's almost no fiddle and no pipes or whistles, but hopefully the standard of playing, singing and arrangements is as good. We were even going to do a version of “Boat to Burhou”, [Slide's party piece] in fact we recorded it and it sounded great (I used accordion and whistle as well as 5-string fiddle), but in the end we took it off - for a number of reasons. The chief thing is that we wanted the album to be close to what we sound like live, and as Tom doesn't play the six-string guitar, it would have meant me doubling up on my instruments in a very obvious way. (But I do play them all live.) The title Silverlode is from the song “The Silverlode of Sark”. Silverlode being the streak of raw silver ore in the ground that everyone's wants so desperately to find! The song is based around true events on the Channel Island of Sark (next one down from Alderney) in the 1830s/40s when they had a go at mining sliver there. My only regret about the album is that I couldn't put all my new songs on it! I've got another four new ones, one about Alderney (a ghost story), one about a Channel Islands shipwreck (true), one about a Scilly Isles shipwreck (true) and one about the wife of King Charles the 1st of England (also true)!!”
The Silverlode is a very good and interesting album, and it’s very difficult to accept the idea that it’s a debut. Since the first notes you have the sensation of a great harmony between the two musicians, and it seems incredible that only until few months ago they’d had never even played together. The tracks of the album, tunes and ballads, traditional songs (including “Poor Labourers” and “The Blue Cockade”) and original compositions, are all arranged in a smart way, using all the various musical instruments well. But in our opinion the real plus of this CD is the songs. Composed by Tom Bliss, they’re excellent examples of what contemporary folk ballads should be like. He has a great narrative sense, and the melodies are also very enjoyable, giving the songs the taste of timeless ballads. Even the idea of producing an album “nearly as live” has succeeded: you have the sensation of being in a folk club, listening to these songs in a relaxed atmosphere. On the CD attached to this issue of “Keltika” there are two tracks from The Silverlode: the title-track “The Silverlode of Sark”, a clear example of Bliss’s ability as composer, with Bliss on guitar and vocals, and Napper on the mandolin and backing vocals; and the “Celtic soul” of these two musicians is witnessed by the jig set “High Part Of The Road/Creel Of Turf/The Castle.” Alfredo De Pietra, Keltika magazine Italy