Bob Fox

Live Review | The Rock, Maltby | Review by Allan Wilkinson

I dare not even hazard a guess at exactly how long Bob Fox has been singing songs from the North East in the folk clubs, but when I first ventured into folk club land, and that’s pretty much a long time ago (and a bit), he was a fixture in all the local and national gig guides, together with his old mate Stu Luckley. Now, stacked along several shelves at my feet, are antiquities known as LPs, and amongst them I have a couple of vinyl gramophone records by Bob Fox and Stu Luckley. Their first LP, Nowt So Good’ll Pass, celebrates its thirtieth anniversary next year and on it, Bob sings songs which have subsequently become pretty much standard folk club fare, songs like “Sally Wheatley” and “The Bonnie Gateshead Lass” both of which he performed to a relatively small gathering at The Rock in Maltby tonight. I can reveal that the distinctive voice on the record and the voice I heard tonight has changed very little, if at all. If you want some sparkling bright new folk whizz kid you’ve come to the wrong place tonight. Ditto if you’re looking for some experimental cross-over boundary-pushing folk genius. If however your taste buds are craving a little of what is generally accepted as a benchmark for the North East singing tradition, you needn’t look any further than Bob Fox. He is considered one of this countries’ best folk singers and he could quite easily have walked away with the 2003 Best Singer Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards had Eliza Carthy not also been nominated that particular year. As well as being a highly competent singer, Bob can also find his way along the fretboard with relative ease, sticking in the odd jig or reel at the end of one of his songs. The song selections he chose for the Rock were split pretty much evenly between songs from his own back catalogue, one or two traditional songs and a few from friends along the way, including Chris Leslie’s “My Love is in America”, Jez Lowe’s “Greek Lightning” and “Taking on Men”, Johnny Handle’s “Guard Yer Man Weel”, Ewan MacColl’s “Champion at Keeping ‘em Rolling” and even (of all things) Jimmy Nail’s “Big River”, tagged onto the end of the gorgeous “Waters Of Tyne”. It’s always great to hear such confidence in an experienced singer of songs that you grew up with and it’s even better when they still sound as good as they did on those records from your past. For those amongst us who have saved those dusty old records on dusty old shelves, or those of us who can remember the folk scene of the Seventies and early Eighties, there may be good news around the corner. Bob indicated that he might very well be getting back together with Stu for some gigs next year, in order to celebrate thirty rather swell years since the release of that remarkable LP. I think I’d like some of that.