Wednesday 25 June 2014


CD Review

Back To Scotswood

One of the first thing which strikes you about this album is just how talented and versatile veteran musician Tom McConville is.

Tom McConville
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 -The Knife Grinder. It sounds very much like the legendary Stephane Grappelli. It does come across as very refined and something that would be at home as the theme tune to an Agatha Christie drama or the opening music for a series such as Jeeves & Wooster. There is a lovely interlude featuring the guitar of Chris Newman and it's McConville's first chance of the album to show just how many notes he can wring out of the well-worn strings of his fiddle.
In complete contrast this slides into the beautiful, evocative and much-covered ballad The Parting Glass. McConville's soft and gentle tones lend themselves perfectly to this undulating song. His singing iswonderfully and simply picked out by the light piano playing of Leonard Brown.
It's soon back to the jazz-style again with Doc Harris but if you listen underneath the jazz coat beats the heart of a hornpipe subtle but unmistakable which again is picked out almost typewriter like by Brown on the ivories as McConville's trained fingers weave in and out of the rhythm almost like the ribbons on a maypole.
Listen To The Wind is such a relaxing tune. McConville's smooth tones are such a pleasure to listen to, this a switch-it-on-after-a-bad-day-at-the-office type tune and his easy on the ear tones mean within seconds you will feel the stresses falling off you like water droplets off a a duck's feathers.
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.
McConville's latest album
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-style music which is not a million miles away from the well-known Wedding
Tom and Andy Watt in Wolverhampton
March most people know as Here Comes The Bride.
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.

Back To Scotswood is out now and available from

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