Link to Living Tradition Homepage





TOM KITCHING - Interloper 

TOM KITCHING - Interloper 
Fellside Recordings FECD267

A young fiddler reframing and redefining English music - I'm in two minds about this one. Leaving aside the argument that it's already been done by Eliza Carthy in her Red Rice period, I suspect Mr Kitching has bitten off more than he can chew here. Perhaps Interloper is only the beginning, in which case this is a fascinating project and a promising start. Young Tom combines new English folk tunes with a number of Playford standards and some rediscovered pieces from his home region around Macclesfield. This musical stew is tasty enough and the fiddling is a powerful illustration of the straight English style, simple harmonies, low octave parts, minimal ornamentation and an almost mediaeval earthiness. Cobbler's Hornpipe is a fine example, an old 3/2 melody with grinding fiddle lines, Freya Rae's soaring flute over the top, Marit Fålt picking out the melody on her modern lute and subtle percussion from Jim Molyneux before Freya cuts back in on clarinet for a bit of Thomas Hardy meets Acker Bilk.

There's plenty to enjoy here, from the swirling Southern European renaissance rhythms of La Rotta to the much more modern music of Tm Elvin. What I'm missing is any forward-looking sound, any signpost for the future of English music. Interloper largely confirms my impression that this tradition is looking outwards for its inspiration and that there is a hole in the heart of English dance music. Kitching's own Occidentals would fit right into a Scandinavian session and Neil Davey's The Way Is Clear is one for those melodeon and hurdy-gurdy fans addicted to Em who look to Brittany and central France for new material.

Talking of gurdies and button boxes, Tom uses these and other guests to good effect, but this too is not new. The touches of improvisation, edginess and eclectic instrumentation remind me of 1990s Edinburgh, with The Savage Orchestra, The Easy Club, Shooglenifty and others. Take The Buffoon, a fine English tune played here in a way which has not really altered since the 1970s recordings of Moulton Morris Men or the Albion Band. Of all Tom's new material, Sally Kirkpatrick's Fair Play and the two slow jigs by Steve Hodgskiss are perhaps the most English, but they don't set a new direction. The final track looks east, to the fiddle traditions of the former Soviet Union. Just to complete the compass points, we all know what music lies west of Cheshire and Lancashire. Whilst it remains to be seen whether Kitching can take his musical stew and top it off with a new English crust, or whether that's actually just Cobbler's, this CD is worthy of attention in its own right and will no doubt have an impact on English and other musicians.

Alex Monaghan

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.