TOM KITCHING – Seasons Of Change (Talking Cat TCCD 2001)

Seasons Of ChangeIf you want to know more about Tom Kitching’s Busk England project please follow the links below but for now we’ll concentrate on the Seasons Of Change CD – the part that Tom calls the self-indulgent half. Tom is a fiddler in the English style and a versatile player, equally capable of belting out a big tune or playing cleverly and quietly. It would have been impossible to record the album in the field with the background noise, hecklers and people stopping for a chat (just read the book, you know you want to). More than that, the recording process would have erected a barrier between Tom and his audience, rather defeating the object of the exercise. Instead, in search of the sort of acoustic he treasures, Tom recorded the album in Danebridge Methodist Chapel as live with Jon Loomes at the controls and contributions from Marit Fält on mandola and cittern and Jude Rees on English border pipes.

Tom isn’t specific but we are invited to conclude that these are among the tunes he played on his journey and at least two of them were definitely written on the road or shortly thereafter. He begins with one of the big tunes, ‘Old Molly Oxford’, and if you’re playing out for the Morris you have to be heard – no problem here. It’s also a twisty tune so it’s not just a warm-up. Next up is one of Tom’s own tunes, ‘Belt-Driven’, inspired by the old industrial machinery he saw and built on an insistent rhythm. In contrast, ‘Grimstock/Greensleeves Morris’ delicately pairs a Playford dance with a Morris jig and ‘Miss Firth’s/Eglantine’ are a pair of waltzes which Tom says always raised a smile.

‘Hellebore/Ice House Schottische’ are two relatively modern tunes which allow room for experimentation and ‘In-Store Bakery’ is another song from the road – clearly Tom hears things I’ve never heard in Tesco! ‘Lamaload/Bean Setting’ pairs a beautiful tune by Steve Hodgskiss with the delightful Morris tune which Tom has messed about with more than a bit. ‘Staines Morris/Trip To Paris’ are both 17th century tunes that allow him to be clever on the mandolin. The final three sets also pair a traditional tune with a modern one, Melanie Biggs and John Dipper being responsible for two of the latter, and finishing off with Tom’s own ‘Infinite Espresso’ another song from the book.

Seasons Of Change is a fine album of mostly English dance tunes – one is Flemish and one is French – from a period which Tom describes as an exploration of the fiddle and the most intense practice he’s ever done. There’s nowhere to hide on the streets and let’s hope that Tom is allowed to go out and play again soon.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.tomkitching.co.uk

Read our review of Tom’s book here.

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