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by Roberto Menabò

Some young people - in their hurry to get a record out - burn their fingers with works which they grow to repent of. Others however wait until they have something to say. Allie Fox is no newcomer, but since you don't ask a lady her age, let's just say that she's been around the Scottish folk scene for some years, and now she has come up with Diving For Pearls which has more than rightly won over the English critics. A polished, pleasing and captivating CD, Diving For Pearls has all the prerequisites to be considered one of the most intriguing albums of folk songs this year. Make no mistake: Ms Fox does not harp back to tradition, but writes terse and lyrical songs with a clear acoustic folk approach. With a few but sound musicians around her, some from the Mike Heron Band. Ms Fox performs her songs for us with single-mindedness and professionalism of a kind which is astounding for a debut performance. The tracks come over as fresh and immediate. The opening song Out of the Blue is catchy, while others, like the biting The Meaning Of Love are more introspective and contemplative. All however are characterised by sophisticated and precise arrangements, thanks too to the support of Iain McKinna. Ms Fox's voice is individual, never strained and never straying, but pure and delicate, its sensitivity calling to mind the unforgettable Sandy Denny. Moon Over The Rooftops sees her come to grips with a kind of Soho Blues. It turns the spotlight on her abilities as an acoustic guitarist, which ought to prove of even greater service in a future project, an unaccompanied instrumental guitar album. Great stuff, look out for the next one.

Special thanks to Tom Cunningham, web designer for the official Rod Clements website, for this translation.

Joe Louis Blues

Joe Louis Blues, the trailer track from Allie Fox's long-awaited album Diving for Pearls, is quite brilliant. It's about the 20 times world boxing champion and comes complete with silky harmonies and strings flowing over the folk-singer's famous guitar work.

Explaining Louis' roots and the way he struck a blow for freedom in the ring, the lyrics dovetail near the climax into an African chant. The track helped along by Iain McKinna on bass, keyboards and vocals, John Rutherford on slide guitar and Dave Haswell on drums and percussion certainly whets appetites for the release of the album on Vixen Records.

Allie's Pearls a Real Gem

The Selkirk singer's sultry tones, backed by a folk-based, sun-soaked instrumental blend, provides the perfect antidote to some of the more bizarre musical offerings around today.

Top tracks are the already reviewed and obvious single Joe Louis Blues which kicks you till you cry out, the sparkling Out of the Blue, the clever, upbeat Backstreet Girl that splashes over you, and the soulful yet sombre Birdwoman with its silky production. I Was Wrong is tight and memorable, and in The Moon Above the Rooftops there is even a hint, after the Vangelis-like start and finger-picking guitar work, of, dare I say it, Mungo Jerry! All in all, it is an outright must. All local outlets must stock it and all folk fans in the Borders must buy it. Already the album is attracting national media interest, including MOJO which has described it as "a beautiful debut album."

Hunt Down this Fox CD

"At last I can say: this song's from my new album." With that typically lighthearted introduction, Selkirk-based singer-songwriter Allie Fox effortlessly eased into a quite spellbinding showcase of songs from her debut CD Diving for Pearls.

Aided and abetted by some of the most tasteful and accomplished contemporary musicians around, she proceeded to command a respect from her audience which would be hard to muster in a cathedral - let alone a busy pub.

Fox is certainly one of a rare breed - a fiercely determined and meticulous music maker who certainly knows how to promote herself, but with a vulnerability which is not at all affected and cuts across all the hype, endearing her to live audiences. It is a common touch which also transcends her music, inducing in the listener a strong sense of empathy, even ownership.

Brilliant though the components of each well-constructed song are, Allie Fox is far greater than the sum of her parts and that is why Diving for Pearls is a must for your CD collection. From the upbeat Moon Above the Rooftops to the intensely moving Joe Louis Blues, via the heartstring-tugging title track, Diving for Pearls is a classic compendium - six years in the preparation - of songs which, though often introspective, are catchily accessible.

And as live gigs go, Thursday's effort would take a lot of beating in any context, featuring as it did the CD's producer Iain McKinna on keyboards, John Rutherford (guitar), Wendy Weatherby (cello) and two refugees from the Nat Kings: drummer David Little and fretless bassist Gavin Dickie. They stirred up the sweetest musical potion which was beautifully served up by Sound Station engineer Dave Angus.


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