TOM FAIRNIE is an Edinburgh-based songwriter who enjoys collaborating with others.
Bob Shields and Tom met when they both worked at Edinburgh University and Tom was determined to make a CD of his songs. The problem was that many of the songs were at best half finished lyrically and Tom was grateful for Bob’s collaboration in getting them finished.
They are both poets and both were born and brought up in Musselburgh, just outside Edinburgh. They have similar tastes in music and often co-present a radio show called My Little Radio Show on a local community station called Radio Saltire. Bob helps present the show about once or twice a month while Tom presents the show every Tuesday evening from 9pm until 11pm. The focus of the show is singer songwriters, which is a topic they can expound on endlessly.
Tom has made four solo CDs and has toured several times in The Netherlands and Germany and played a variety of gigs in the UK as well as recently playing a short tour in the United States of America. He performs solo and as a member of a band called Tomfoolery, playing original songs written by himself or with Bob.
Tom has played at numerous festivals and often given song writing workshops. Since he retired from the University, music has been a major focus but, whilst he has ambitions for the songs, he is definitely happier as a writer than as a performer although performing with Tomfoolery has been fantastic fun and a real challenge.
AS EDEN LAY IN DARKNESS features twelve songs written and performed by Tom Fairnie mostly in collaboration with Bob Shields. The songs cover a variety of genres from out and out country to folk. Songs about the death of Hank Williams sit beside gothic tales, pagan tributes to the Hawthorn and a song inspired by Will Geers friendship with Woody Guthrie. Ear worm melodies and thought provoking lyrics.
Eden Lay In Darkness was released some years back but Bob and Tom have always had ambitions to produce an Americana / Country CD. They write across several genres including folk and blues as well as Americana but they thought that it might help promote the songs if they re-issued them organised by genres, hence the HARD TO FIND EP CD, which is also a taster for a full twelve track Americana / Country CD of the same name.
The HARD TO FIND EP CD includes “”Sonoma & Sistine””. If Tom wasere forced to be brief, all I would really say is that it is a song about contrasts. Bob and Tom take great care when writing that every word counts. They are both fans of layers of meaning in songs and we dont have a problem if no-one gets those meanings; hopefully they simply enjoy the song. Tom always wanted to write a song that, if it were an old 45rpm single, he would want to lift the needle at the end of the song and just put it right back to the beginning again. He thinkgs “”Sonoma & Sistine”” is possibly the nearest he has come to that ambition.
Regarding the other tracks on the Hard To Find EP, Shoeshine Boy is a song about the death of Hank Williams and comes from the AS EDEN LAY IN DARKNESS CD. Runaway Blues, which is a song about how we romanticise figures like Bonnie & Clyde to such an extent that people sometimes try and emulate them and forget that they were actually, in reality, people who committed terrible crimes. They made a movie about Bonnie & Clyde in the seventies andgot two of Hollywoods most glamorous stars of the time, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, to play the parts, which rather emphasised the glorification of two notoriously cold-bloodedkillers. The other two songs, My Little Radio and Wild Geese, come from an earlier CD called THE JOURNEYMAN and are both pretty straightforward songs one about nostalgia and the other about regret.
“”In a parallel universe TomFairnie isa superstar of Scottishand Countrymusic. It’s notjust fair that it hasn’t happenedinthis universe becausehe writes tremendous songsand, togetherwiththe rest of Tomfoolery; Madelaine Cave, Graham Whyte and Jane Fairnie, playsandsings them withelegance, style and great beauty. Their harmonies alone are worth the price of admission. Tom has a gentle, understated quality to him, but for all that, they make one hell of an impact whenever they play.”” Leith Folk Club review March 2016
“”Tom Fairnie is Scotland’s best kept songwriting secret.”” Edinburgh Evening News
“”Tom Fairnie writes excellent material and performs it with the energy and passion of a seasoned player”” Martin Lennon – Edinburgh Evening News
“”He’s a romantic at root and his style seems to reach back to the great nineteenth century poets and to Burns, combining the pithiness of the latter with the yearning romanticism of the former though all the while his eye is on the world around him in the here and now”” John Davy Flying Shoes Review
“”Tom Fairnie, in a word; atmospheric. This Scottish songwriter has a sound so heroic and wide ranging it’s a wonder how his stunning and far reaching yet subtle country sound isn’t flowing from the fingertips of an American songsmith.”” Greg Harper – Rawrip
Tom Fairnie is an Edinburgh-based poet/singer/songwriter with a rich background of performance and recorded collaborations with other poets and musicians. There are a couple of previous solo recordings but these two new discs demonstrate that the man is an innate collaborator there must be about thirty other musicians and singers credited with an appearance at some point in the proceedings, though the core sound throughout remains Tom himself and his acoustic guitar. He says that he aims for uncluttered arrangements and that is indeed the case in fact his music is at its most effective when his bruised, Scots Kenny Rogers voice is set against his own beautifully elegant folk guitar style.
The songs collected on these two discs go back over the last ten years or so and combine several strands of his work. First and foremost, hes a poet, in love with words and imagery. Hes a romantic at root and his style seems to reach back to the great nineteenth century poets and to Burns, combining the pithiness of the latter with the yearning romanticism of the former though all the while his eye is on the world around him in the here and now. Secondly, hes in love with country music and with American self-mythology. Songs about Hank Williams and Bonnie and Clyde are not the only occasions when his imagination drifts across the Atlantic to put himself in a desert landscape or in a border bar, drowning his romantic sorrows in tequila. Thirdly, he enjoys wandering (at least in his imagination) around European scenes of culture and sophistication and, fourthly, he enjoys referencing the music and the writers that have informed his life in performance, from traditional British folk song to You Are My Sunshine. In other words, there is a richness of material here that makes for some enjoyable listening as you let your imagination follow the paths he leads you down. Its strange, however, that two albums of frequently beautiful, gentle music lack the killer melody that would hook you in both sets can drift by without a single song demanding to be heard again immediately. A song like I Aint Goin Dancin No More on As Eden Lay in Darkness is as close as he gets to a catchy little number, but its left deliberately underpowered, the emphasis remaining on the sadness in the lyric rather than the bounce in the tune.
The beautifully produced covers for these discs incorporate booklets that feature poems from Toms good friend and colleague, Bob Shields poems that sit as companion pieces alongside the lyrics to each song. Its a clear indication of where the heart of this work lies. John Davy