Absent friends, vanished communities and the legions of war dead were invoked in Bob Fox’s fine Edinburgh Folk Club set. Those of us of a certain age can remember the Tyneside singer’s high-spirited sets at the club in the mid-Seventies with Tom McConville: since then Fox has become regarded as one of the finest voices on the English folk scene, recently gaining wider audiences through his role as the Song Man in the National Theatre’s acclaimed stage production of War Horse.
Summerhall, Edinburgh ****
Fox’s strong, seasoned voice and accomplished guitar-picking propelled his habitual opener, Ewan MacColl’s Song of the Iron Road, continuing with numbers from his Pitmen Poets collaborative project, including Jez Lowe’s eponymous tribute to the coal face bards and songsmiths who passed down knowledge of their way of life to present generations.
From the Tyneside tradition, The Bonny Gateshead Lass was nicely spliced with the Irish jig Gander in the Pratie Hole, a tune which Fox learned from the recently and sadly departed Vin Garbutt, and gave an affectionately true-sounding rendition of a Garbutt standard, Man of the Earth. The late Andy M Stuart received a similar salute, with a rollicking rendition of his Ramblin’ Rover.
For War Horse, Fox had pulled off the considerable feat of learning the button accordion in six weeks and, accordingly, donned the box during a clutch of songs from the show, including Learning to Plough, later returning for John Tams’s eloquent anthem of remembrance, Only Remembered.