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TOM LEWIS - Tigerfolk, Long Eaton - 8 April 2018

This excursion through submariner-singer Tom Lewis’s tales of a sailor’s life was part of a series of gigs tagged as “75 years in 75 minutes”, and hence there was plenty of context and naval knowledge supplied throughout the evening.

Tom’s later times ashore in Canada were not neglected; the song Happy Landlocked Sailor came from that period, connecting to the broader theme of the ex-mariner. Another number, Down At The Sailor’s Rest, captured that theme especially poignantly.

The aspect of Tom’s repertoire that was perhaps most striking came from the fact that it looked at experiences of the sea from the ‘inside’ (the autobiographically-linked content) and from the ‘outside’ (e.g., those with families at sea, those who dreamt of going to sea but had not done so). This combination of perspectives was very effective. It’s something that more artists might think about; I am sure there are singers who have, for example, paired a song about the joys of alcohol with one about alcohol-related domestic abuse or poverty, but perhaps not enough performers attempt multiple perspectives on the same subject.

Tom’s particular contribution in this regard is summed up best with reference to two songs from his first set: The Widowmaker (a song about the fears of Grimsby trawlermen’s wives), and the (almost) self-explanatory Nobody Showers On A Submarine. You can’t get a more ‘insider’ song than one about ‘personal care’ on a submarine - possibly destined for a concept album titled Songs Of Naval Hygiene?

It’s also worth noting that the number which came in between these two songs was an acknowledgement of the work of Cyril Tawney – a nice touch.

Tom’s performance included a good infusion of singable choruses alongside the body of more reflective material, contributing to a distinctive and very enjoyable evening.

Paul Mansfield