The Whisper (Tom Bliss) SLIP 012
The Whisper unveils a string of compelling story songs, presented with thought and subtlety, balancing dark material - The Sin of Mary Prout is brilliant - with humour and oddball arrangements. (Colin Irwin - Mojo)
A whisper would be far too muted a response to this exceptional CD (Dave Kidman)
This powerful - and very generous - cd must get an award of some sort, surely. (Chris Ridley)
1 The Bristol Lady (Bliss from trad sources) 4:40
The Discharged Drummer appears in Maud Karpeles' second book of Newfoundland songs. I felt the tune and the characters had potential, but there was no chorus - or, for that matter, story! So I added both. TB vocal, mandocello, Scullion dulcimer TONY bodhran
2 Spirit of Ecstasy (The Whisper) (Bliss) 6:15
Charles Sykes designed two statues, using Eleanor Thornton as the model, which became Rolls-Royce mascots: The Whisper and, more famously, The Spirit of Ecstasy. After her death (on the SS Persia in 1915) John, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, secretly kept in touch with their daughter, Joan, who'd been given up for adoption at birth. After John's death his son, the current Lord Montagu, recognised Joan (one of whose sons worked - by pure co-incidence - at Rolls-Royce) as a member of the family - just as John would have wanted. TB vocal, mandocello, guitar CHRIS harmonica ALEX TOM & TONY vocals.
3 North at Night (Bliss) 3:45
TB low whistle, guitar, mandola, mandocello, duet concertina
4 The Mighty Montagu (Bliss) 4:01
The hapless Captain Thomas Adair was a relation of my cousin; Commodore Allan Adair RN (Rtd). TB vocal
5 Branscombe Bay (Toller/Bliss) 3.13
At Sidmouth 2007 I was asked to run a songwriting workshop themed on The Napoli, which being in danger of sinking, had been beached at Branscombe nearby in January. Two ladies from the Branscombe oral history society contributed the bones of this story on the first day, and Richard Toller contributed the bones of this song on the last. Apparently they really did toss for the BMW! TB vocal, mandola, mandocello
6 The Handsome Cabin Boy (Trad arr Bliss) 4:58
No, her name was NOT Roger. TB vocal, mandola, mandocello TOM mandolin, banjo CHRIS harmonica ALEX vocal
7 John Riley (Trad arr Bliss) 5.13
I've always thought the girl's reply in verse two should have been 'Help! Police!' ALEX vocal, TB vocal, guitar
8 The Sin of Mary Prout (Bliss) 8.35
I found this harrowing story in a book called The Lovers Graves, by Bethan Phillps (Gomer) and then did some research of my own. The events took place in West Wales in 1864 - at a time before there was any real understanding of post natal depression. The point that moved me most of all was that everyone, including Mary herself, referred to the baby only as 'it.' She was in fact a little girl, named Rhoda after Mary's younger sister - during whose birth their mother (also Mary) had passed away. TB vocal, piano accordion, toy accordion, duet concertina ALEX vocal and voice
9 The Four Foot Track (Bliss) 4:15
This song came to me sitting on the beautiful Three Cliffs Bay below the Gower Folk Festival site in Wales, early on Father's Day, 2008 (shortly after my daughter Ellie moved out to her first flat), but I was thinking of our favourite Alderney beach; Arch. There are references to some of our favourite books buried in the lyrics too. (Ned, who at 16 is already one of the best guitarists I know, was visiting my son Jack when I was recording this track. He just had to be on it). TB vocal, rhythm guitar, mandola NED lead & tapped guitars
10 Mark Purdey (That’s Just the Kind of Man) (Bliss) 6:15
At school, Mark was my best mate Piers' older brother Julian's best mate. He was already a fine musician - and a brilliant scientist. Tragically, Mark died in November 2006 - but I sincerely hope his work will be continued TB vocal, guitar, Scullion dulcimer, duet concertina, piano accordion. MATT sax TOM & TONY vocals
11 Leaving Lochboisedale / The Stronsay Waltz (Wilson / Chalmers) 4:31
Two tunes Tom and I arranged for our Island Slices show. (Stronsay is in Orkney, and Lochboisedale is on South Uist, in the Western Isles). TOM NAPPER octave mandolin (leading) TB mandocello
12 Sound the Drum (Bliss from trad sources) 5.55
My neighbour Diane Taylor showed me the two surviving verses of a rather limp 18th C ballad called 'Long Preston Peg' (which Peg herself is known to have sung in later life - but only when in her cups), and suggested the true story might make a more interesting piece. I slotted this together from various sources, calling the un-named drummer Taylor as a gesture of thanks to Diane. But when I sang her and her husband the song, Peter revealed that when he was a lad, he'd actually been a drummer in a marching band! TB vocal, whistle, mandocello, mandola CHRIS piano accordion, vocal PETER drum, vocal ALEX TOM & TONY vocals
13 The Tumblebum Tongue-twister (Bliss) 3:03
I wrote the words for this when I was 21 and much impressed by Mervyn Peake's 'non-sense' poems. The melody arrived more recently LOUIS voice. TB guitar, mandola, mandolin CHRIS melodeon TOM mandolin, banjo TONY guitar, bodhran
14 Middle English (and Welsh) Pie - bootleg (Bliss) 5.13
This was bootlegged at the Festival at the Edge, which specialises in storytelling. I've had so many requests for a recording that I think I'd have been lunched (sorry - lynched) if I'd left it out. (Only some of the mispronunciations are accidental!). TB voice
15 God Speed (The Snow Goose) - band version (Bliss) 6:03
This song sketches the story of Paul Gallico's heart-rending novella. He himself re-located a true tale, of a couple who saved a wounded snow goose, to the early days of WWII. ('The port' is, of course, Dunkerque). This is probably my most requested song, but the original recording, on The Kelping CD, is now out of print, hence this new full band version. TB vocal, guitar, bass guitar TONY guitar, vocal TOM octave mandolin, vocal CHRIS harmonica, piano accordion, vocal ALEX vocal
Alex Birch lives in Alderney, where she sings and plays sax with various bands and helps run the Alderney Week festival.
Peter Taylor was involved with the The Coach House in Farningham Kent, during the 70s, and after a long break, is out singing and playing guitar again.
Matt Nelson was in the folk teen supergroup The Pack and is now Kate Rusby's tour manager.
Rod Holt is based in Otley, W Yorks, but his reputation is, deservedly, galactic.
Ned Darlington lives in France. His dad is the conductor Jonathan Darlington, and his mum the opera singer Theresa 'Tizzy' Lister. (This was Ned's first professional session - something I'm going to be very proud of in years to come).
Like Tizzy and me, Louis de Bernieres comes from Godalming, Surrey, where he and I used to compete to impress the girls. As he plays even more instruments than I do, and has written a few bestsellers, and, ok, a blockbuster movie, I guess I finally concede!
Tony Taffinder plays in various combos and is the guitar wizard at The Music Room, Cleckheaton.
Chris Parkinson works with Steve Tilston, Maggie Boyle, Alistair Russell, various Carthys and Watersons, Steve Phillips, Richard Grainger, and many others.
Tom Napper works with many others - and, of course, me.
Tony, Chris, Tom and I are - when we can manage it - The Pipers Sons.