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Tom McConville and Dave Wood
One of the busiest musicians on the British folk scene today, Tom McConville was back in Doncaster tonight for the last of this year's gigs at Bob Chiswick's Monday Music Club at The Regent. Tom has not only been a huge influence on many fiddle players over the last few decades, most notably Seth Lakeman who appears to have taken up the mantle of fiddle whiz-kid for this generation, but he's also built up a reputation for being an all round good bloke with an enduring smile and pleasing stage presence. You feel that presence well before he actually gets up to play, as he is one of the few musicians who sticks around for the support to give 'support'. That's a quality that should never be overlooked by performers in this field.
Tom's regular partner Pauline Cato is currently taking a break from touring for a while whilst she and her husband spend time with their newly arrived baby. In the meantime, Tom has been on the road with the young guitarist Dave Wood, who's been providing the rhythm on which to set a rich selection of fiddle tunes, jigs and reels, as well as a bunch of songs from the North. As his nickname plainly suggests, the Newcastle Fiddler has his roots deeply seated in Geordie tradition but manages to express himself with songs from all over the place. Chorus singing is still encouraged in folk clubs but never so enthusiastically as when Tom McConville is at the helm. Each song performed tonight began with several runs through before the song got underway proper, and in some cases the audience let themselves go.
I think when it comes down to it, Tom, like most people I've met from the North East, is proud of his birth right and nowhere is it better expressed than in Mark Knopfler's song Why Aye Man:
We're nomad tribes, travelling boys,
In the dust and dirt and the wrecking noise.
Drills and hammers, diggers and picks,
Mixing concrete, laying bricks.
There's English, Irish, Scots, the lot.
United Nations what we got.
Brickies, chippies, every trade.
German building, British made.
Sounds like we have a theme song for the next series of Auf Wiedersehen Pet if nothing else!