Tom Bliss and Friends | Island Stories

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Folk: Modern Folk Folk: Traditional Folk Moods: Type: Acoustic
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Island Stories

by Tom Bliss and Friends

Original (and traditional) story songs (and tunes) from and about the Channel Islands (Europe). 'Astonishingly moving and Inspirational' -Tykes News
Genre: Folk: Modern Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Boat to Burhou
5:02 $0.99
2. The Casquets Light
1:31 $0.99
3. Homecoming Day
7:04 $0.99
4. The Swinge
2:22 $0.99
5. The Silverlode of Sark
5:41 $0.99
6. St Pierre Lihou/The Sark Dance
2:28 $0.99
7. The Race
5:06 $0.99
8. J'Ai Perdu Ma Femme/Le gas De La Marine
3:30 $0.99
9. The Merry Bells of Helier
4:16 $0.99
10. Where Strangers Stare
6:17 $0.99
11. The Grey Lady
5:51 $0.99
12. Herm
2:10 $0.99
13. Turn and Face the Wind
5:12 $0.99
14. Sunset at Saye
2:54 $0.99
15. The Wreck of the Steamship Stella
5:48 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
PLEASE DO NOT BUY FROM THIS WEBSITE OF YOU ARE BASED IN EUROPE (It's bad carbon karma to post CDs twice across the Atlantic)! Please visit Tom's own website, click on 'Albums" and purchase via Abicat - thanks.


I am biased, but any album that features mandolins, fiddles, harmonicas and tenor banjos is going to be a winner with me. And Island stories has real instruments played mind-bogglingly well in spades.

A sort of folk concept album, all 15 tracks are based on the tales, incidents and geography of the Channel Islands (even Jersey gets two songs) and it does help to know where these tunes are from (rather than from some pit disaster in Northumberland or a train crash in Dorset).

All are written or arranged by Tom Bliss and performed by him and his partner Tom Napper and their quartet The Pipers Sons, plus a host of guest musicians and singers. The album starts with the haunting whistle and menacing accordion of Boat to Burhou, charges through the seven-odd minutes of the epic, touching and ultimately rousing ballad Homecoming Day (about the return of the Alderney people to their island home), manages a touch of bluesy harmonica on the Silverlode of Sark, the jaunty Jersey Polka J'ai Perdu Ma Femme/La Gas de la Marine (which sounds a tad Cajun) and ends with the Wreck of the Steamship Stella, which, as the title suggests, is exactly what folk music should be about; true stories expertly played and beautifully sung.

In fact this is exactly how I'd describe the whole album.

Shaun Shackleton


Having recently seen Tom do an astonishingly moving and inspirational set at Wath Festival I was delighted to see his new release glistening temptingly in the darkness of the reviewers’ cauldron. I was already aware that much of the CD was a collection of material from earlier albums with Tom Napper, The Pipers’ Sons and Slide but I also knew that two of Tom’s finest songs were also currently only available here.

The first of these, ‘Homecoming Day’ tells of the complex emotions of islanders returning to Guernsey following the Second World War to the welcome of a lone cornetist playing ‘Home Sweet Home’. If you don’t have a lump in the back of your throat as the Tom tells of the boat entering the harbour I’m afraid you cannot be human. As with many of Tom’s songs this is compelling – demanding you stop and listen rather than just have as background to other activity. This is even truer of ‘Where Strangers Stare’ which I had heard only once previously. This is a departure for Tom – a spoken verse with instrumental accompaniment paired with a truly haunting refrain. This latter is sung with indescribable beauty by Alderney singer Alex Birch, from whom I dearly want to hear more. The melody which is heard throughout the song is simple but thoroughly beguiling and somehow so right.

As for the rest of the songs and tunes there are some classics here including a wonderful arrangement of ‘Boat to Burhou’ (I have said before that I believe that this is one the best fusions of lyric and melody in the folk canon), the stirring ‘Silverlode of Sark’ and ‘The Wreck of the Steamship Stella’ all from Tom’s current band, The Pipers’ Sons. But it was listening to ‘Turn and Face the Wind’ which made me realise what it is about Tom’s singing that entrances me – it is a fragility at certain registers that imbues the stories with such emotion. There are undoubtedly singers who are technically better than Tom but very few have the ability to tell you a story that you feel you will never forget.

Joe Grint


Though still retaining a base in mainland UK, singer/songwriter and multi-multi-instrumentalist Tom still considers Alderney his home, and this CD is his tribute to the immense long-lasting (and continuing) inspiration he derives from the Channel Islands, their history and landscapes. It collects together from Tom's five CDs to date (one solo, two with Tom Napper and two with his "old combo" Slide) all of his original songs and instrumental pieces which have Channel Islands connections; these demonstrate a striking consistency of approach and vision, each one a nugget of true quality (you could say mined from the very silverlode of Sark!). Amongst these we find such key works in the Bliss canon as the reflective The Race, the haunting story-songs The Merry Bells Of Helier and The Grey Lady, and the touching anthem Turn And Face The Wind. But although this CD is termed (and marketed as) a compilation, just under half of its contents consists of brand new recordings, which in turn fall into two specific categories: three of the songs have been vitally reinterpreted by The Pipers Sons (in which The Toms are joined by Tony Taffinder and Chris Parkinson), while four of the items embrace previously unreleased material. The latter category contains one of the CD's highpoints: Homecoming Day, the story of the Alderney islanders' return after World War II and their welcome-ashore by the cornet-playing of John McCarthy (here replicated by Charlie Greenslade, additionally backed by a brass ensemble). There's also Tom's lively take on the catchy traditional song J'ai Perdu Ma Femme, which provides an emotional counterweight to Where Strangers Stare, a powerful Bliss composition that postulates on the mystery of Alderney's Elizabethan wreck, and features the beautiful singing voice of Alex Birch. Finally, I shouldn't need to mention – given Tom's track record – that not only is the songwriting unerringly craftsmanlike, strong and characterful, but the playing and singing throughout the whole CD is first-class (Tom plays a dozen instruments, all of them brilliantly!), as is the sound quality, allied to the excellent, informative and attractive packaging and presentation (all in the now-familiar Bliss house-style).

Dave Kidman



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