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LIVE REVIEWS AND FEATURES (to read the full article click on the reviewer's name)

Cramlington Folk Club

Time for our guest, Tom Bliss. His first song was 'The Violin' in which the fiddle tells its story - a very moving tale. If you haven’t been to a Tom Bliss gig, go the next time he is around your area. Tom is a consummate story teller, and a mine of information. He explains the background to each song, and then proceeds to entertain with wonderful skill and musicianship. Who will ever forget the story of 'The Mighty Montagu' about Captain Thomas Adair who managed to park his ship in the middle of Lundy Island (the Captain happens to be a distant relative of a cousin of Tom’s). All too soon the first half drew to a close as Tom ended with another tale of a relative, a mill owner, with the song 'Silk ‘n’ Leather' which refers to the tweed manufactured in Chipping Norton.

The second half started with Allan Savage in fine voice as usual with a couple of songs - a Burns song and one by Ian Campbell. Next up Dave and John who ended with the Ewen Carruthers song 'Was it You?'

Tom started his second set with a song linked to Dave and John's last song. Quite a few of the songs Tom sang tonight are from his forthcoming album 'The Whisper'. The song of the same name refers to the Spirit of Ecstacy - a sculpture modelled by Eleanor Thornton who was secretary and more to John Montagu - quite a moving tale. Tom also included 'God Speed (The Snow Goose)'; 'Branscombe Bay' and 'The Napoli' about the beaching of The Napoli and the events which followed. He ended with 'Someone Upstairs', a tale of the Second World War, and a story about his father. If you want to learn more, go along to a Tom Bliss gig and you will not be disappointed. For an encore Tom strayed from his usual ending - and for a very good reason - by singing 'The Four Foot Track' which is all about a very important lady in his life. Like I said before, go to a gig to learn more.

All to soon it was time to close up for the night, get all the glasses back to the bar, get the gear stored away and say "goodnight, see you next week, and thanks for coming".

"Great night"; "Fantastic"; "That was great"; "Wasn’t he great" were just a few of the comments heard as the audience made their way out to another miserable Cramlington night (I mean the weather)! Keith Taylor

Scrag End Folk Club

A small, but very appreciative, audience was treated to an excellent evening’s entertainment by Tom Bliss who has an extraordinary talent for researching a story and then writing an interesting song about it. In addition to his skills as a songwriter, Tom also most ably demonstrated his musical abilities in playing a range of stringed instruments as well as the concertina and whistle. Tom showed that he is a very talented, and most pleasant, person who relates well to the audience and provides them with a most informative introduction to all of his songs. Tom opened his first set with ‘The Violin’ which creatively tells the history of his own violin. This was followed by ‘Fly Angel Fly’, a song about Eleanor Thornton who was the model for the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ radiator mascot seen on all Rolls Royce cars, and ‘The Montague’ which was an unaccompanied song about a distant relative crashing his ship on the rocks of Lundy Island. The audience was then told about one of the uninhabited Channel Islands Burhou, which is a seabird sanctuary, and which inspired the next song ‘Boat to Burhou. We were then treated to two tunes ‘Herm Waltz’ and the ‘The Sark Dance’ which clearly demonstrated Tom’s instrumental talents and another self penned song ‘Sound the Drum’ which provided good opportunities for the audience to join in the chorus. Tom ended the first half with a most interesting song ‘Just the Kind of Man’ which was about an organic farmer, Mark Purdey. When the government tried to eradicate warble fly with compulsory applications of organophosphates Mark refused on the basis that he already had a perfectly good organic treatment for warble fly and anyway the doses they were demanding were excessive. He sued the government - before they could fine him - and won! A salutary lesson for all those people who feel that the government is not acting in their best interests. The second half opened with Tom’s version of ‘Rue’ which is based on a traditional song originally adapted by Mary Humphries and added to by Tom. Rue being a herb that was used for bringing on a self-induced abortion. This was followed by a chilling tale ‘The Sin of Mary Prout’. To balance emotions Tom then introduced some light heartedness by performing a very clever poem that he had written entitled ‘Middle English Pie’, which was a recipe using British place names, and ‘The Mandola Song’ Tom then sang a traditional song, ‘Jack Hall’ which tells of the last chimney sweep to be hanged at Tyburn and ended a most enjoyable evening with one of his most requested songs ‘God Speed’. Extended floor spots at the beginning of each half by Kate Morris and Tony Croft, an accordion and melodeon duo known as ‘Syzygy’, provided excellent musicianship combined with sympathetic arrangements. Their performance enthralled the audience who expressed the view that they are worthy of a future booking at the club. Dave Johns

"THE TWOMS"

Vernon Arms Folk Club

The two Toms, Napper and Bliss:  What a treat they gave us - they took us round the world, from the Orkneys and Hebrides, to the Isle of Man, Cornwall, Sark, Ireland and far beyond these shores (oh, and Leeds!). Tall tales and stories of Irish bands in Denmark, tweed making in Scotland and Chipping Norton ('silken leather', strange but true), cross-dressing pirates and the love that dare not speak its name between Fender and dulcimer.  Spike Milligan, Grace Darling, the Utopian Socialists (look them up!) and the RNLI all made an appearance.  And what music!  A variety of instruments (sorry, not being a musician, can't name them all), jigs, reels, waltzes, brilliant songs, harmonies, acapella - is there no end to these chaps' talent (no, obviously not!).  Witty and at times incredibly moving (the story of the one child policy in China, and the rescue of a tiny number of baby girls in particular), the two Toms really gave us a night to remember.  Thank you to them, and to all who performed or were privileged to listen.  Bron

Tykes News

'amongst the finest synthesis of lyrics and melodies in the folk canon' Joe Grint

Folk on Tap

Feature Julian Gurr

The Living Tradition

Feature Debbie Koritsas

The Living Tradition: General Ludd Folk Club

'they are brilliant now' Tony Charnock

Chichester Observer: Chichester Festivities: The Bishop's Kitchen

'actually fantastically good' Jeremy Evans

Woodman Folk Club Website: The Woodman

'brimming with excellence' Mick Harrington

Friday 13th Folk Club, Harrogate

'a class act, make no mistake about it' Ray Black

Wombwell Folk Club

'what an eye-opener' Hedley Jones

Other promoters thoughts

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