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Back To Scotswood
One of the first things which strikes you about this album is just how talented and versatile veteran musician Tom McConville is. For folk purists some of the tracks might be a little too much on the jazz side but McConville is such an expert with his instrument that it's worth listening to him play anything because he does it so enjoyably.
Even without his track record and respect on the folk circuit, when someone such as Seth Lakeman describes him as one of the greatest violinists he has ever heard, you realise he is something special. On top of this the Newcastle fiddler has a voice as silky, smooth and down to earth as the notes he produces on his strings and he is an engaging an unassuming character who, when he is on stage, has a self deprecating manner which is most endearing.
He opens the album with one of the jazzier tracks of the disc, his own work -
In complete contrast this slides into the beautiful, evocative and much-
It's soon back to the jazz-
Listen To The Wind is such a relaxing tune. McConville's smooth tones are such a pleasure to listen to, this a switch-
McConville gets back in the traditional groove with a trilogy two of his own The Sand Dancer and McFadden's Handsome Daughter and the third named after it's composer master banjo player Gerry O'Connor who is now part of the Dublin Legends touring roadshow.
The opener does have the feel of a hoe down about it and again is picked up by the tinkling of Brown on the keys which carries on through Gerry O'Connor, with all the time McConville's impeccable playing dancing in and out and up and down leaving his musical mark at every step.
One Last Smile is a gentle ballad written by Allan Taylor and sung with real emotion in McConville's distinct voice which is further enhanced by his strong Geordie accent.
This is followed by a double dose of jigs, Dave's The Mann and The Two Paddys. They are played at a fairly sedate pace, for jigs anyway, and you do feel like you are waiting for them to pick up but the race for the finish never comes, however this doesn't detract from the lovely sound McConville produces on his fiddle.
McConville makes the fiddle sing beautifully on Esther Stephenson of Embleton, it is such an emotive sound which is sort of detracted from slightly by the piano in the background which really guilding the lily because the fiddle playing is gorgeous enough to stand on its own. This more than any of the excellent tracks shows off McConville's real skill in getting every shred of sound out of his wood and strings.
Foxy let's McConville's playful side free reign and has some wonderfully creative notes which sound almost like they have been produced electronically. But it's just a great fun song which you will find yourself humming without even realising it, and it's a foot tapper too.
Gael and Pete's Wedding does exactly what it says on the tin. It was written this year for a couple's impending nuptuals by McConville. There is a tea dance element to it but underneath you can get a feeling of the more traditional church-
McConville's penultimate track comes from fellow North Easterner Billy Mitchell of Lindisfarne fame and who is nowadays strongly associated with Bob Fox and is another ballad which has the retrospective which is the inspiration of the album, as the Scotswood of the title is the road where McConville grew up and encountered many of the people whose influence would stay with him all his life.
For the last track McConville literally plays second fiddle giving the lead to Malcolm Bushby for the wonderfully lilting sound of The Ross Memorial Hospital. Bushby's fiddle playing is beautifully smooth with really pleasant tones which are made even richer by McConville's harmonies on his own strings.
Back To Scotswood might not be everyone's idea of a folk album but if you like music that is spot on, a real pleasure to listen to, perfectly executed and has the ability to carry you away for a short time on a magic carpet of musical notes then you really need to get this album.
FOLK ALL Blogspot
Back To Scotswood
Boomchang Records BCCD004
Tom McConville is a real genius, consistently producing music of the highest quality over more years than he probably wants to remember. Back To Scotswood is a fairly stripped back CD, dedicated to musicians met during his formative days in his family pub on Scotswood Rd, Newcastle Upon Tyne.
I think his version of The Parting Glass is almost perfect, just Tom’s voice and Leonard Brown’s wonderfully sympathetic piano. A real malt whiskey moment! One Last Smile, written by another genius, Allan Taylor, isn’t half bad either. In fact there isn’t a bad track on here. From start to finish it has that feel good factor. And all the way, Tom’s fiddle playing is a bit of a masterclass, lots of styles, all excellently played, up there with the best.
What sets this apart from a lot of other good music is often not what he plays, but the sense of timing and those ‘pauses’ which seem so instinctive. It’s easy to put loads in, but not so easy to produce something sounding so naturally simple. The production, sleeve notes and art work all contribute to what I consider to be one of the albums of the year.
One of the dedications Tom writes is to all those who have made his life so happy. I’d like to echo that by saying thanks to Tom for all those he has made happy through his wonderful music.
Back to Scotswood
Once again this man has pulled not just a rabbit but also a fully jugged hare out of the hat. This CD ought to be called ‘The Elixir of Tom McConville’ it is brilliant. I’d like to write a host of superlatives but I’d rather leave it at just brilliant and tell you to stop reading this review, go out buy the C.D. sit down, put it on close your eyes and just play it.
I can honestly say in all my 60 plus years of listening to music; this is the first album I have heard where all the tracks are my favourite. Starting with The Knife Grinder running through to The Ross Memorial Hospital, 12 offerings of beauty.
Tom’s voice, unlike most of us, is improving with his age. His fiddle playing is once again second to none. Add to that the skills and musicianship of Chris Newman, Leonard Brown, Andy Watt and Malcolm Busby and you have a superlative sound. Even after playing for the first 10 times I was still hearing different nuances and little surprises that I hadn’t heard the first nine times. I suppose after one hundred plays I might get it all.
Tom has never stood still in his musical repertoire. I thought a few years ago that he had reached his peak (BBC Folk Musician of The Year – 2012) and would sit back and rest on his laurels a little, but no, he still leaves me gob-
His constantly expanding choice of styles and presentation reflect a soul who will never give up. I can’t wait for the next C.D. Well done canny lad, please don’t stop.
Rhyl Folk Club – July 2014.
"The CD is so attractive a listen that you don't quite realise you're missing the visual dimension, since you can virtually hear Tom's wide grin and chuckling repartee. If you appreciate joyous and scintillating playing presented in a sympathetically accomplished blend of subtlety and energy, then look no further."
"Tom McConville has long been acknowledged as one of the leading fiddlers of the British Isles, combining stunning technique with warm tone and great expressiveness. That Tom is also a fine singer is underlined by the four vocal tracks, all excellently sung, with the standout for me being the sensitive reading of Richard Thompson's Beeswing"
Folk on Tap
I've always thought Tom is as good a fiddle player and singer as you're ever likely to find. It's not only as a musician that I admire him, but also as a good pal who I've been lucky enough to know for thirty years or so; we both went to different schools together....If you get the chance let him enchant you with his music and charm you with his warm personality, don't miss it. You'll have an evening to remember for a long time.
Natural Acoustic Band and Magna Carta