Veteran folk troubadour Bob Fox plays at the Red Lion in Kings Heath on Wednesday night. Martin Longley caught him up in York last month.
The Black Swan
Down from County Durham, Bob Fox impressed with his communicative vigour right from the outset, an accelerated guitar progression spurring on his own deeply resonant vocal run, relishing the challenge of a complex syllable-spill. His swift-pickin’ sounds like it’s born of a banjo-fantasy. Fox spent a lot of time tuning his strings, having abused them with the tensile testing of his fleet fingerings.
He charged through a train song, Ewan MacColl hanging on for dear life, paused to introduce his ebullient stand-up comedian tactics, Fox also being a fast man with a witty insight. Or he’d give an explanatory introduction that was destined to be longer than the following song. A prime example of this was The Ballad Of Jack Crawford, but the audience had no cause for complaint.
Until around a year ago, Fox had been playing the Song Man character in the War Horse musical play, interpreting the songs of John Tams. These formed a healthy part of the evening’s two sets, with Fox beginning this stretch on his second number. One of the demands of that production was that he learn to play the melodeon in six weeks, a frightening task that he made seem highly amusing. In an act of defiance, he’s even kept one of those songs in his set, proceeding to accompany himself at a lollop, on said squeezebox. He threw in a ditty in hardcore Geordie dialect, a rare love song from Gateshead, challenging the audience to sing along.
Fox confessed that, during a four decade career, he’s never really been adept at penning his own songs. Fortunately his taste is refined when picking out likely contenders, including a selection from his Dreams Never Leave You, the 2000 solo debut album that Dave Pegg recorded following Fox’s opening act stint on a Fairport Convention tour. Fox then climaxed the evening with one of the many folk songs concerned with cross-dressing, which was something of a bawdy highlight.
Bob Fox plays at The Red Lion Folk Club, Kings Heath, Wednesday 16th March 2016…