Bob Fox has always thought me slightly mad for giving what he felt was a tepid review to Dreams Never Leave You and then making it my album of the year (it simply grew and grew on me until the choice made itself). So I sent Pete Sixsmith - no need to, actually, since he was going anyway - to check him out at one of the UK's best folk clubs ...
There are few ways of celebrating a Sunderland win more satisfyingly than to spend a couple of hours in the company of Bob Fox.
Victory over Aston Villa was followed by a visit to the Davy Lamp Folk Club at Washington Arts Centre in Fatfield (birthplace of fellow Mackem Alan Price). Three weeks ago, we saw a rather forlorn Andy Irvine, weighed down by a rotten cold and his failure to gain entry to the Stadium of Light. He put on a very good show, but Bob went one better and put on an excellent one.
It may well be that he felt at home. He is a Seaham lad, and that is practically a suburb of Sunderland. He knew the organisers well and talked fondly of playing alongside them at the Green Dragon and the Chesters in Sunderland.
He is a fine musician and singer. His playing is delicate and intricate and his voice has a warmth and a lilt about it. He has a good routine in which he fully explains the songs that he is about to sing and he has a good mixture of traditional and modern.
It was the set you have come to expect from Bob. He speaks fondly of his early recordings with Stu Luckley and sang some of the old favourites from those days – Bonny Gateshead Lass and Sally Wheatley are great songs and he relates well to them.
He has a knack for picking good songs by good writers. His version of Ralph McTell’s Peppers and Tomatoes was outstanding – a powerful song about conflict within disparate communities, based on what happened in Yugoslavia, while Child of Mine, written by two Sunderland brothers reminds him of his own children and now his grandchildren.
Chorus/refrain songs play a large part in his repertoire and give a clear picture of his musical upbringing in the back rooms of pubs. He knows how to work an audience as well, with humour and pathos. From The Tailor of Whitby, a charming song about a man who decides to expose his genitalia to all and sundry one New Year's Eve, to a rousing version of Galway Shawl which closed his set, he had us eating out of his hands.
The only blot on the set was the inclusion of a couple of songs about Newcastle. Bob, we don’t want them, even if your rendition of Jimmy Nail’s piece of doggerel, Big River, is far, far superior to his. Let’s have more about Jack Crawford, the Sunlan’ lad who nailed his colours to the mast.
The great Jez Lowe song, Taking on Men, from the contemporary Radio Ballads could apply to Wearside as well as Tyneside, while he showed how well he can interpret Ewan MacColl, with Keeping Them Rolling.
A great night out in the company of a man who should be a Wearside legend and who makes music of the highest quality. Thanks to Bob (and Richard Dunne) for a most enjoyable and entertaining Saturday.