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TOM OAKES - Water Street 

TOM OAKES - Water Street 
Window Weather Records WWR00002 

Tom’s a flute player and multi-instrumentalist from Devon, now living in Edinburgh, and this, his first solo album, is very much about the flute.

In a cruel twist, Tom’s trusty Michael Grinter flute shattered on stage, just as his life as a touring musician was about to be shattered by COVID lockdowns. Confined to home in an old Merchant’s House in Leith where he happened to be living, and with a series of flutes bought at auction to try out, he decided to look upon the time as “a residency” rather than “an incarceration”, and the result is this album of tunes, recorded late at night, played on three different old flutes (including a very special Rudall and Rose instrument, which is strongly featured here). Tom very deliberately makes full use of the different acoustics available in the old building, creating a fluid, gently shifting atmospheric quality to the album.

In the main, the tunes come from the Irish and Scottish tradition: a slowed down version of The Ace And Deuce Of Pipering; sea shanty Blow The Wind Southerly played as a mazurka; The Silver Slipper and one of Con Cassidy’s jigs from Donegal; a couple of slow airs; and a fantastic trio of reels to finish. Again, he cuts the speed on Pat Crowley’s hornpipe, The Harp And The Shamrock, which melds really well into The Three Sea Captains, speeding up slightly as it goes. There’s a lovely waltz written for his daughter. Two of the tracks are a bit different though; the flutes here are layered in a slightly orchestral-sounding and more free-form way, often discordant (to my ears anyway), and quite dark and broody. Perhaps they depict Tom’s mood at the time - his response to the place he found himself, and his desire to get to other places again. They fit with the atmospheric nature of the album, but don’t really float my boat, sadly.

Tom gets a great tone from the flutes, and adds a splash of Greek bouzouki to some of the tracks; done with a very light touch, with simple sparse chords rather than heavy accompaniment. It all makes for a very interesting and unique listen. One to listen to closely with a single malt in a contemplative mood.

Fiona Heywood


This review appeared in Issue 143 of The Living Tradition magazine