Allie Fox at Kelso Folk Club Friday 13th September 2002
Now very much part of the musical scene in Scotland, Allie Fox seems to spend more time promoting other musicians than she does promoting herself. She is a very precise and note-perfect guitarist, with the kind of consistency in phrasing and timing session musicians love to encounter, but without losing the fine edge of expression and feeling. She also has that rare ability to work alongside classical, rock and folk contemporaries, giving her first album "Diving for Pearls" a depth which takes it far from her solo roots.
Invited to visit Kelso Folk Club to open the 2002-3 season for this new venue, Allie chose to go it alone, and to include alongside her songs old and new guitar instrumentals - and amplified mountain dulcimer, a rare thing to hear. This was the first time her Borders fans had heard a full evening set from Allie alone for quite a while. She normally teams up with guitarists like Neil Warden or Frank Usher, if not a full acoustic-electric band. Sometimes she will do a quick spot at the String Jam monthly guest concerts she organises in Galashiels, but open mike visitors always take priority, to her credit.
This concert set proved that in some ways Allie Fox is better neat than mixed; her guitar sound is superb, whether tackling blues standards in a clean open G or D or bewildering players in the audience with unexpected chord sequences from standard tuning. What impresses is the accuracy and definition of her fingerstyle. It is also extremely refreshing to hear a guitarist who can capture the full dynamic range of the instrument, from pianissimo to forte, without any use of the customary swell-pedal. Though she jokes about needing to see what her hands are doing, much of the time this is happening behind some demanding vocal work and it's still spot-on.
Interestingly, Allie is currently working on a purely instrumental album which is planned for release next year. Unlike "Diving for Pearls" which was a full production venture with the help of her many musical friends, this will be a stripped-down, more rootsy acoustic guitar project showing the range and inventiveness of her solo playing.
Allie's repertoire is not loud pub fare, and will always work best with a highly attentive and appreciative audience (which the Kelso club is lucky enough to get). She is very much a lyricist's songwriter, a singer's singer and a guitarist's guitarist; put all that together and the combination has plenty of appeal for those who are none of these and just want to listen. Enjoy hearing her solo and unadorned if you get the chance.