Bob Chiswick – Northern Air

Album Review | Self Release| Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 3/5

Bob Chiswick’s follow up to the 2002 CD “All the Way to Everything” brings together a few recently written songs that he has been performing around the South Yorkshire area, most notably at his own acoustic music venue at the Regent Hotel in Doncaster during the ensuing years.  Bob has a distinctive voice and guitar technique, as well as a poetic way with words.  His songs are constructed around unpredictable melodies and assured no nonsense finger-picked guitar arrangements.  “Brown River” could be about any northern town, but one feels it applies specifically to Bob’s own neck of the woods, with its bleak reflection on the abandonment of working waterways of post-industrial Yorkshire.  There’s a distinct sense of loss weaving in and out of the structure of the song, not unlike the complex of serpentining rivers it addresses.  Amongst the songs and the one instrumental composition on the album, “Red Indian Ocean”, which is a haunting piece played on piano and keyboards, there are moments of introspection such as “Mystified” and “I’m Beside You” as well as moments of lucid observation such as “My Job”, which touches upon the polarised ideologies of the modern workplace, arguing the difference between crass over-familiarity exemplified in our beloved tele-salespersons as opposed to those whose employ in a previous era was of a much nobler labour, “I used my hands before I wore this headset, underground where I felt at home, my family has a mining background, going back a hundred years, but it was left out for the vultures to feed on the culture, the only one we’d ever known, it was dark but it had beauty, we served it out of duty, a city two miles underground, that was my job, that was my job”.  An older song is also included in this collection, the timeless “My Old Dancing Partner” which belongs in the canon of songs that includes “Punch and Judy Man” or maybe “Come Dancing”, with its nostalgic remembrances of a bygone age.  Sometimes songs that look back at our formative years magically transport themselves back to that time and somehow belong there.  They become part of that time.  I wonder if this is what defines a real folk song?  A chronicler of the trials and tribulations of everyday life, Bob Chiswick is equally at home as a writer of songs and poems and has also produced his own semi-autobiographical novel “A Bowl of Dry Soup”.