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Orkney Blues Festival: Tom Ashman (one to watch)

Review By Bernie Bell

music imageI first came across Tom Ashman, about 6/7? years ago when he played with Red Dog Bandit, or was it Trunk Road Defect? – they kind of merged into each other!  Time passed, he got a bit older, he turned up at one of the Royal music nights and played his guitar, and played it very well indeed.  More time passed, and he turned up playing with Cosmic Soup , the only Orkney funk band , now defunked – please, someone , get together another funk band!  Then, he turned up again at the Royal with some of his fellow band members, and played Debussy on a Fender Stratocaster!  And played it superlatively well. “One to watch” – I thought.

Next thing, he turned up playing with The Driftwood Cowboys as part to the Folk Festival earlier this year – very versatile, can play, and play so well, in different genres of music.  Hmmmmm- definitely one to watch.

Then, Fiona-Next-Door sent me a link to listen to one of her tunes on that ‘Cloud’ thing. I listened to Fiona’s – then saw other folk down the side of the ‘page’. One of these was Tom. So….I had a listen to one of his self-written songs ‘Digging for the Sun’. It was good – it’s always good when musicians start to do their own stuff, rather than just covers.  I thought – he wants to be Bruce Springsteen – not a bad person to want to emulate! The thing is – Tom had actually caught some of the feel of some of Bruce’s more quiet songs – he didn’t just want to be Bruce – he was managing to have some of that sound.  Further down the list, I saw that he also did ‘I’m on Fire’ by Bruce, so I listened. I get ratty if folk cover people that I like, and don’t do it well – but Tom did  ‘I’m on Fire’ and he did it very well indeed.  I wanted to write something in the ‘comments’ , and ask where we could go to hear him play, but it wouldn’t let me. Fiona told me that I’d have to be signed up to the ‘Cloud’ malarkey –  I’m not a musician, don’t get on well with t’Internet, so…I didn’t! But decided to tell Tom what I thought, if I got the chance.

Then…..on the programme for the Blues Fest. , this year, there was Tom – early Saturday evening, Stromness Hotel.  I’d thought he was one to watch – so we went to watch him – and listen.

He sat down quietly with his Fender, and …..played.  Just played. Didn’t do a tune, then pause for applause, just….got onto the groove, and flowed with it.

Some people are good, some are very good indeed – I’m a great fan of Coop on guitar – but this lad is exceptional.  A lot of people were yabbering away, not listening. How can folk not listen to something like that?  The way that I could listen was, to cut out the side noises, focus, and go into the music. I was doing this, when someone I know came up and put his hand on my shoulder – I nearly jumped out of my skin!  I was so deep in the music, I’d managed to cut out the extraneous noises and the surrounding ‘world’. I think maybe Tom does that too.  I don’t know how he manages to sit and play through all the noise otherwise. He certainly looked like that was what he was doing. His eyes showed him to be  – somewhere else – in the music.

I’m afraid I don’t have a photo – I don’t take  my camera to music gigs – I noticed Tom O’Brien, the ‘Orcadian’ photographer taking pics of Tom, and I hope that there will be one of him in the ‘Orcadian’ coverage of the Blues Fest.

This lad really is one to watch.  Maybe I shouldn’t call him a lad, as he’s very much grown up now, but, I’m an old lady and refer to most people as lads, or lassies.  I hope Tom is going to do something with his exceptional ability. Playing with The  Drift wood Cowboys is a good thing – he’ll learn a lot from Duncan McLean – but – The Driftwood Cowboys hardly ever perform. And….I want to hear more from Tom!!!!!!!

Playing a bit of Django Reinhardt would be…………….nice.

One to watch – you read it here.


The Orkney News welcomes contributions from its readers –  you can use the contact form on our website or e:mail fiona@theorkneynews.scot

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