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TOM KITCHING - Seasons Of Change 

TOM KITCHING - Seasons Of Change 
Talking Cat Records TCCD2001 

“Project” is not yet a dirty word in the creative arts, and there have been a few interesting ones recently from traditional musicians. Tom Kitching's idea to play his fiddle around the towns of England and experience the true meaning of Englishness is a good example, and has produced some fine music on this album.

There is also a book, perhaps more central to the “project” - 330 pages with a reasonable price tag, full of information and anecdotes, with some great one-liners, and a new word to me: “immiscible”. Usually applied to liquids, which is not inappropriate given the importance of coffee and beer on a busking odyssey, this word describes the co-existing cultures and the hard separation between rich and poor which characterise the England revealed through Tom's travelling year. To the Scots or Irish looking at England from outside, this may come as no surprise, but in the wake of elections and referenda it's fascinating to see the same picture appearing over and over again, east and west, north and south. Bounded by seas and by other countries, I've always felt that England is more defined by its limits than its contents, but it seems that there is a uniform English character after all, and it may explain a few things.

From Berwick to Bodmin and beyond, this scant score of tunes summarises Tom's learnings and leanings in hundreds of hours and thousands of miles of busking. The fiddle is joined by Marit Fålt's expressive cittern, and a spurt of English bagpipes from Jude Rees. The material is mainly old, Playford and Morris tunes joined by traditional dance music from all over England and even into France. Tom includes three of his own pieces, one at least written en route, and there are lovely melodies by Cliff Stapleton, Nigel Eaton, Steve Hodgskiss and others. It's mainly raw, earthy music, a recognisable English sound, with some sweet moments on waltzes and airs. A clever title, a catchy set of tunes, and more than a few questions, Seasons Of Change is a fascinating album. I also recommend the book, but if you don't fancy that I believe most of the material is available online in Tom's blog.

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 135 of The Living Tradition magazine