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Reviews of

The Slippery Slope - SLIP 005

Slide

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fROOTS

Not to be confused with the new Irish band of the same name, this Slide comes from Leeds, Yorkshire and they are a four-piece, heavily influenced by Irish and American traditional music and contemporary folk in the Show of hands vein. The Slippery Slope is their first album. While wanting to keep the atmosphere of their live shows intact, it also displays a level of competence and accomplishment that is commendable. Featuring multi-instrumentalists Tom Bliss and Derek Magee, both of whom turn their hands to string and reed instruments including Magee's fiddle, mandolin, uilleann pipes and whistle, and Bliss' guitar, mandocello and fiddle, and Neil Russell Whitaker's five string banjo and bassist John Layton, the sound is a good time one with a laid back, relaxed aura. Lyrically, Bliss' accounts of nautical life in The Race and The Humber Horse Marine show promise and would fit perfectly into the folk-rock bosom, such is their graceful flow and melodic sway. Instrumentally, The Sweetness of Mary shows a command of Irish and Scots styles complete with a Dave Swarbrick-like touch, and Magee's uilleann pipe's add extra colour. The traditional Maid On The Shore is given a suitably low key yet gripping reading, lingering on the melody and Bliss and Magee's subtle touches coming through loud and clear. Slide offers an intriguing cross-breed of Irish, English and American folk styles which when fully integrated and interlocking could be a potentially lethal concoction. The Slippery Slope outlines their calling card in a pleasantly engaging manner.

John O'Regan, Folk Roots Magazine, November 2001 No 221

Stirrings

Slide are a four-piece from Leeds comprising Tom Bliss (vocal, guitar, mandocello, mandolin, whistles, harmonica, fiddle and keyboards), Derek Magee, (fiddle, low whistle, mandolin and uilleann pipes), Neil Russell Whitaker (vocal, five string banjo and guitar) and John Layton (bass guitar): they're joined here by Steve Fairholme on melodeon. Although the sleeve notes say they're really a folk-rock band without a drummer they could have fooled me on this showing; the traditional acoustic influence is very strong. Both songs and tunes are a mixture of traditional and band-composed material. Of the songs, The Humber Horse Marine - an interesting story of a lesser known part of canal life - and The Race - a very island-like song (about Alderney, though it puts me in mind of the Hebrides for some reason and could easily have been written by The Tannies or Battlefield (in fact it is Tom Bliss) are the standout tracks, and of the tunes I particularly favour Natural Bridge Blues, which in fact is more like American Old-timey music. Although this CD was studio recorded, I think that the band have achieved their objective of keeping it fresh and energetic and sounding as though is was recorded live - as in fact, one track was

Ian Spafford, Stirrings, Sept-Nov 2001 No 109

Tykes News

Slide are a four-piece band who write and sing their own songs and play a few dance tunes as well. The overall feel is traditional British but there are exceptions. Neil Russell Whitaker contributes a good chorus song in "Goodbye To France (And All That)". Neil sings it in a kind of Dylan way, which makes it mid-Atlantic to my ears. Derek Magee composed some of the tunes, and co-wrote"The Stranger and the Crone" with Tom Bliss. This is a ballad of an encounter in the woods which has a woeful conclusion. And a Homer Simpson "Doh!" moment right at the end. Great stuff. Tom Bliss is the principal songwriter, in this collection at least. He certainly has range: He can write a song about life hauling keeled vessels ("The Humber Horse Marine"), or a lovelorn sailor's lament ("Boat To Burhou"). And a song about, for heaven's sake, a boat race which is completely charming. It has a lovely refrain, which is slightly-longer-than-you-expcct-it-to-be-but - you're -glad. And it is perfectly arranged, with a lovely low whistle motif but mandocello, guitar and bass behaving themselves and instrumentally, the album has a pleasing variety of pluck, blow, squeeze and bow. I particularly like the 5-string banjo in the dance tunes. Well done, gentlemen.

Kevin Loughran, Tykes News, Winter 2001

Longdogs (Show of Hands Internet list thingy)

Tom is a member of a Leeds based band called 'Slide' who's album 'The Slippery Slope' has been getting played rather a lot around these parts recently. The album features a number of tunes, some trad, some contemporary, some original songs and some fine playing from the four piece line up on an impressive arsenal of instruments including guitar, mandocello, mandolin, harmonica, fiddle and keyboards ... and that's just Tom! There's more fiddle, more mandolin, more guitar, low whistle, uilleann pipes, 5-string banjo, bass guitar and a sprinkling of melodeon played by other members Derek Magee, Neil Russell Whitaker and John Layton with guest melodeonist Steve Fairholme. Vocal credits are shared between messrs Bliss and Whitaker. The tunes are fun, especially if you enjoy your folk music played with a bit of "oomph". Slide dance to their own drum (figuratively speaking as they are drummerless) but occasionally nod in the direction of the likes of the Waterboys, early Oysterband or even the Pogues, but it's the original songs that stand out. Most are penned by Tom, some along with other band members, and there is a certain "Knightleyesque" style to his writing which I rather enjoy. For me, very few writers can paint pictures with song lyrics in the way that Steve does, but Tom get's pretty close, especially on the album highlight, the beautiful 'Boat To Burhou' which is coupled here with a fine Bliss tune 'The Casquets Light'. You could be forgiven for thinking that 'Boat' was very much influenced by the Knightley epic 'Tall Ships', but it was in fact written many years before Tom had even heard of SK. Another Bliss original, 'The Race' is well summed up in the band's press pack: "...it has an old Alderney fisherman reflecting on his life working the Channel - and his own mortality..... it has a lovely refrain, which is slightly-longer-than-you-expect-it-to-be-but-you're-glad and it's perfectly arranged with a lovely low whistle motif and mandocello, guitar and bass behaving themselves". Some of the tunes have lovely melodies and there's one in there that will be familiar to modern day Fairport fans everywhere.

And later ....

Listee Tom Bliss's band 'Slide' ended their "Boat to Burhou" Channel Island tour last night with a gig in Barford St Michael, North Oxfordshire (the well known Channel Island). You might recall my enthusiastic review of Slide's debut album "The Slippery Slope" some while back, well I'm delighted to say that the live Slide doesn't disappoint at all. Despite a hectic few days, an eventful journey back from the Channel islands, and Tom suffering with a bad throat they gave a great performance which was well received by all present (including fellow listees Bates and Hamilton and LJE's Mat Davies). If you get the chance check them out, they will be making a guest appearance at Folk On The Fosse sometime in the future.

Richard Barnes, Longdogs, June 2002.

Radio Voce Spazio, Italy

Anyhow I received the sampler copy of the latest album of Slide as I asked you for, and I now take the chance to thank you so much for sending it so me so promptly. "The Slibbery Slope" is an exceptional work from a band which has surely a very original and fresh style and a powerful and very dynamic approach to traditional music. I read that you consider Slide something like a sort of folk-rock band without drums and I must confess I do agree with that: in fact, although the most of the instruments in your line-up are acoustic ones, there is such a strength and energy in your music that is not always typical in the British folk music scene. Moreover, even if most of your repertory comes from Celtic sources, I find your music shows a big dose of Englishness as well as some very appealing country influences that place you in a unique position among contemporary Celtic bands. If the instrumental department, including the sparse and subtle arrangements, is with no faults if not perfect, I'd like to spend two words for the singer, that is yourself of course: your voice has that great quality of sweetness and intensity that is prerogative of just the best interpreters of the British folk scene. As you may understand I have a special predilection for "Slibbery Slope" and in fact I played several tracks from that CD in my radio shows of folk, roots and world music here on Radio Voce Spazio: however, if I must choose just one song, my preference goes without no doubt to your enchanting, sublime version of "Maid On The Shore"! I have not had the chance to read the review of your album on "Keltika" magazine but I hope that can be of some help to your band to find an audience in my country and, who knows, maybe one day you will be able to come and play here.

Massimo Ferro