MEMPHIS Vol 1.
Simple, Sensational and Timeless Folk Songs From a Northern Poet-Singer
While Tom Blackwell is a friend of a friend of mine I’d not heard of him prior to last weekend’s SummerTyne Festival; and even then I managed to miss his groundbreaking set on Saturday afternoon!
When I met up with him later in the day after spotting him watching; and visibly enjoying several other acts during the afternoon (which is a rarity for musicians in my opinion) there was a delightful innocence in the way he handled a couple of newly adoring fans which appealed to me. When we chatted I also loved his approach to music and recording; although releasing this album as a cassette rather than one of those new fangled Compact Discs means his new found fans may not get the access to his work that he deserves. (*thankfully he is now releasing it as a download.)
Any-hoot; onto the music itself.
As I’d hoped and expected opening track The Blood Runs Cold On The Ground, finds Tom with just an acoustic guitar, harmonica and a crystal clear production to accompany his deeply thoughtful and mesmeric words; and I can now vouch for why that couple would make the effort to speak adoringly to the young singer-songwriter; after hearing only one single song.
Yet there’s actually another nine songs to get through and each is as striking in its own rite as that first one.
What I’ve come to love about this album is not just Blackwell’s warm and raspy voice, but the ‘easy on the ear’ intensity he provides on songs like Hark Back The Hounds, The Hollow Trophy and the staggering Fforde Capel Canticle, which in theory is something I should really dislike but found myself tipping an ear to the speakers so as not to miss a word or note.
Which brings me to Tom’s guitar playing. Okay he’s no Clapton or Hendrix but he falls into the John Martyn or Guy Clark category where his playing sounds so very simple as he accompanies himself in song but is actually acutely intricate when you listen carefully; and the inclusion of the instrumental God’s Own Land (prelude) is a true joy to behold.
There is something really special and personal in the way Tom writes and delivers his songs; with several (Only Now Can You Run? Sorrow 1?) using subjects that will make the listener think, “Aha; so it’s not just me!” Which is quite a special talent that very few can achieve with such ease.
Choosing a Favourite Song has proved plenty difficult, I can tell you, as this is an old fashioned Long Player that needs to be listened to in one sitting with no distractions; but I will select God’s Own Land which is a quintessential modern English Folk Song that defies time and borders; and deserves to be heard across the whole wide world.
To some degree singer-songwriters, or Folk Singers if you will, have never gone out of fashion in my 50 years as a music fan, starting with Bob Dylan in the 1960’s and ending up today with Ed Sheeran; yet the vast majority are ordinary to say the least; with only a handful sticking in the collective memory…….the Merseyside poet-singer Tom Blackwell will surely become one of the latter category sooner rather than later.