An unnamed elderly guitar repairman at a reputable music shop in South Lancashire is usually a mild-mannered character, but thanks to Rick Tomlinson this nimble-fingered technician is slowly coming to his wit’s end. The fact that Rick is actually his best customer is of little consolation, and the recurring cautionary ‘Don’t do it again!’ is falling on deaf ears, which are maybe the result of listening to too much loud music.
The repeated damage inflicted on Rick’s acoustic guitar by irresponsible baggage attendants at various international airports is not the problem. The fact that this reluctant leading light of the fickle ‘nu-folk’ movement has literally smashed his way out of a tight pigeonhole using his trusty wooden axe as a battering ram is evident by the blood-stained frets. But this is only part of the old man’s concern. It’s actually Rick’s latest requests to make this handcrafted German guitar sound like a mutant instrument from the Middle East that are really eating him alive. The exact problem that this man has spent his life trying to eradicate is now at the top of his leading client’s menu, leaving this supreme craftsman’s head in his skilled hands.. Rick actually wants his strings to rattle and buzz. And if his well-travelled mahogany companion isn’t willing to brave any more abuse, then imminent live shows (sharing double bills with mutually respected luminaries Bert Jansch and Davy Graham) might be the last acoustic guitar performances he will make.
Just in case, the legendary Anatolian protest singer Selda Bagcan has already donated a Turkish electric saz to Rick’s un-blinkered cause, and at recent gigs, when his guitar has been in surgery, his replacement sitar and oud have become trusty substitutes. For those who wanted to hear the heart-wrenching ramblings of another finger-picking twat in a John Martyn t-shirt while you bask in the sun at another easy-to-organise low maintenance / highly accessible ‘chill out’ festival – you might as well move along.. there’s nothing to see here. But many of you know that behind that bloody barricade there’s something morbidly fantastic – Rick Tomlinson’s fingernails are tearing off again and the heavy ethnic fuzz hasn’t stopped. There is a reason why the Voice of the Seven Woods gig stood out like a sore thumb, and you can guarantee he’ll be asked back next year.
Despite a presence as the only non-American artist appearing at the Fernwood Big Sur festival in California this year (alongside some of the most forward thinking psych/folk groups in the States) and being a regular fixture on the European underground circuit, if you were to take a trip to many of the well-publicised lightweight London ‘folk’ events on the trail of another fresh maggot, Rick Tomlinson is nowhere to be seen. And, until now, his headline billing with obscure musicians from Sweden and the Grim North has never been substantiated by an explanatory CD or LP easily picked up from the newly-christened ‘Contemporary Prog’ section in your local record shop.
Trading his own collectable limited 45s and self released CD-R’s – which have been known to top the Â£100 mark on eBay – in record shops worldwide has part-funded Rick’s collection of Krautrock, South American psych and Turkish acid rock LPs, which clearly play a large part in his inspired current output, as well as fuelling occasional DJ sets alongside long running friends from the Finders Keepers / B-Music collective. And the few weeks since Rick finished recording his debut 10 track LP (for Manchester’s Twisted Nerve Records) have been spent in good company: he has played live with TWO members of seminal Krautrockers Can, built up a hefty daytime bar tab in Wales with the legendary Meic Stevens and has backed lost West Coast folk/pop luminaries Wendy and Bonnie.
Add this to twelve months of shared stage space playing culturally disparate music with the likes of Acid Mothers Temple, Howlin’ Rain, Dead Meadow, Espers, Jakob Olausson, Chris Corsano and Thurston Moore, and it’s evident that Mr. Tomlinson’s puerile approach to traditional musicianship is actually re-constructing musical bridges as opposed to destroying them. Perhaps it’s Voice of the Seven Woods who is the real musical repairman in this equation.