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Review by Peter Groves

Padkos (meaning ‘food for the road’), the title of Tony Cox’s latest solo offering, is an album for which the legendary South African finger-style guitarist has picked a number of South African musical song classics, interpreting them in his own inimitable style.  The record is named as such because it is just the sort of music you’d want to listen to whilst travelling on some long journey along some dusty, unforgiving road, to put you in the right frame of mind. Having released numerous albums incorporating his own musical compositions over the years, some with his guitar buddy and life-long friend Steve Newman, this is partly a collection of covers, which by and large, includes songs originally written and performed some of South Africa’s musical greats such as Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse,  Bright Blue, Edi Niederlander, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masakela and Nico Carstens.

There are some new tracks from Tony though and for the first time that I can remember, vocals from the man himself, surprising, considering that I have generally known the modest Tony to be self-deprecating of his abilities in this department. His voice, satisfyingly appealing, is not too dissimilar to that of Greg Lake in tone (particularly on ‘Ancient Dust’) and really works, I feel.

This was, in a manner of speaking, an album that was waiting to be made and is up there with his other recordings, as a work of real quality. It put a smile on my face listening to the tracks because they carry the stamp of Tony Cox, if you are familiar with that unmistakable guitar picking style, as I am.  I met the very approachable Tony personally whilst he was on a musical sabbatical in United Kingdom a few years back and got to know him as a man dedicated to his craft, with an infinite love for the guitar. This is so clearly and admirably demonstrated with his ongoing series of summer and winter international guitar night concerts organised over the last year or two in Cape Town and elsewhere, to which he has invited and performed with the cream of the world’s finger-style guitarists.

His immense talent as a musician notwithstanding, his live shows, in small venues generally, where he feels most comfortable, are thoroughly entertaining and engaging, leaving you mesmerized and transfixed. Not only does he play a mean guitar, but tells a good yarn too, often leaving his audience in stitches.  It’s his larger than life warmth and personality that puts a stamp on and shines through on this particular album, which varies in tempo and mood throughout, adding a freshness to the songs he has reworked, making them all the more interesting to listen to. On a few of his renditions Tony is accompanied by the rich warm tones of bassist Victor Masondo and the cool percussion of David Klassen, which accompany rather than overwhelm the sound of the guitar. On the recording Tony uses his Takamine PS95 and Ian Corr baritone guitars.

He ends off the album with an absolute gem of a melody that will captivate and move you to tears the way it did me, as he performs Bright Blue’s composition ‘Weeping’ accompanied by the sounds of a string quartet, with utter beauty and sensitivity, leaving you wanting more.  I do hope there is to be a sequel, if Tony chooses to do one, given the vast amount of material to call upon, Abdullah Ibrahim’s Mannenberg being one piece I’d love to hear him play.

Do yourself a favour and check out some clips from Padkos and lots of other stuff, video too, on Tony Cox’s website: www.tonycox.co.za/musicvideo.html. Buy the album – you won’t be disappointed!

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