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Tykes News - The Topic Folk Club 11 January 2007

So, another week, another tremendous song writer at a local folk club. West Yorkshire has enjoyed an embarrassment of riches as the heart has been warmed during what should be the coldest season.

I first encountered Tom Bliss at Otley Folk Festival several years ago leading the, now sadly defunct, band ‘Slide’. I was immediately struck by the strength of Tom’s story telling abilities, and it was these that were to the fore at the Topic.

Following the lead of the opener ‘Silverlode of Sark ‘ (from the eponymous CD) it was clear that stories in song were to be the theme of the evening and what stories they were. Stories of Grace Darling, lesbian lovers in 1720 (Gentle Maids Ashore), the foundation of the RNLI (Tower of Refuge) and then a song which condensed, almost perfectly, Paul Gallico’s Snow Goose novel into a few telling verses (God Speed). Following an excellent set of tunes, the first set ended fittingly with the evocative ‘Boat to Barhou’, which in your reviewer’s opinion is amongst the finest synthesis of lyrics and melodies in the folk canon.

But wait! I have so far unjustly neglected Tom Napper who so expertly accompanies, and sometimes leads, these wonderful songs and provides the driving force in the tunes. No mention yet either of Tony Taffinder whose sensitive guitar playing adds an extra dimension to some of the songs and tunes. That is to ignore what makes this evening so special. Superb songwriting combined with fine musicianship.

Gerry McNiece offered a solid support to the second half of the evening with the high point being his song ‘Crazy World’ which contrasted the real world and the comforting cocoon of a folk festival. Fivepenny Piece’s song ‘Brown Photographs’ came up like new in his hands too – an artist to watch.

The two Toms ended the evening with further stories and tunes, amongst the highlights of which were ‘Silken Leather’, in which Tom Bliss abandoned his trusty mandola for the concertina, and a superb rendition of ‘Black is the Colour’ (featuring Tony on vocals) which offered Cara Dillon some serious competition for the most beautiful version of this song.

A great night ended with a set of reels sending the audience home with a smile on their faces and, I suspect, a song in their hearts.

Joe Grint

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