TOM BLISS - Mixed Moss

TOM BLISS - Mixed Moss
Slipjig Music SLIP009

Tom Bliss has hit success as a hard-travelling duo with Tom Napper, who re-introduced him to folk music. This 58-minute solo album is a palette of traditional songs, his own takes on the tradition, more personal songs from earlier days, a couple from Mary Humphreys and Harry Clements, and a trio of instrumentals. It lacks the self-defining lustre of a statement album, but shows us the journeying of a comparative latecomer to the living tradition.

Tom is a skilful and versatile musician. Confident with multi-tracking, he plays guitar, mandocello, mandolin, duet concertina, melodica, pianaforte, piano, piano accordion, fiddle, whistle and harmonica. He takes the three instrumental tracks on his own. 'Miranda' is a delightful guitar piece. 'Sunset at Saye', inspired by an Alderney beach, is a simple, reflective tune on concertina. A pair of traditional dance tunes from Sark is another reminder of his Channel Island connection. The guest musicians - Tom Napper (mandolin), Chris Parkinson (melodeon), Tony Tallfinder (bass, whistle) and Dave Bowie (double bass) - are saved for the songs.

Not all his songs work. The rhymes can bully, some storylines don't bite, and the voice sometimes strains. You sense there is better to come, while finding enough to enjoy. 'Gentle Maids Ashore' features not one cross-dressing sailor lass but two, and is a nice take on traditional songs like 'A Maid That's Deep In Love'. 'Pendle Hill', one of three "believe it or not" tales, is about a hot date with a witch, with backing vocals from Maggie Boyle, Patsy Matheson and Bryony Griffith. 'Fog On the Dogger' tells of a piano player on a North Sea ferry. Perhaps the most successful song is 'Rue', with Mary Humphreys, Tom and the tradition abetting each other in a moving story of unplanned pregnancy, abandonment and regret. The traditional 'Jack Hall' closes the album with a rousing farewell from the gallows.

'Mixed Moss' is interesting but not the finished article. I need a context for it. Time to catch the two Toms in concert.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 69 of The Living Tradition magazine.