The stated aim of Auld Hat New Heids’ album is to recreate the glory days of folk clubs – you remember; when we could go out for a good sing, have a couple of pints and still go home with change from a quid (yes, I am that old). This they do with considerable aplomb and even though these are Scottish folk clubs many of these songs were sung up and down the country night after night. Everyone knew ‘Shoals Of Herrin’’ and versions of ‘The Diamond Ship’ and ‘Twa Recruitin’ Sergeants’ and probably ‘Jock O’Hazeldean’ and ‘The Jute Mill Song’ too.
Auld Hat New Heids are Ian Bruce, probably the more famous of the Bruce brothers until Fraser’s appearance on Eggheads, fiddler Pete Clark (founder of the Neil Gow Festival) and Gregor Lowrey on accordion. What these four guys do seems simple enough – it was simple back then – but there are lots of clever twists to remind you what fine musicians they are.
The opening ‘Prelude’, written by Fraser and Ian, is a bit contrived but it has to set up the last line, making the point that here we have new heads playing what is considered old hat by many. There are songs by many of Scotland’s most famous. I can’t remember when I first heard Alex Campbell’s ‘Been On The Road So Long’ – I’d like to think it was from the man itself sometime back in the late 60s, but I won’t swear to it – but Archie Fisher’s ‘Fairfield Crane’ only came to my attention recently and I’d never heard Matt McGinn’s ‘Three Nights And A Sunday Double Time’ until today. That’s the beauty of folk music, there is always something new around the corner.
Six of the fourteen tracks were recorded live and the rest in the studio and inevitably the album represents a step forward from could have been achieved back then, both musically and technologically. The feeling is right, though, and that’s more important. All that remains is for the band to publish a key to the cover picture – I recognise Robert Burns, Ewan MacColl (even though he came from Salford), The Humblebums, Barbara Dickson and the blessed Michael Marra and is that Hamish Imlach looking over Gregor’s shoulder? I know who should be there – just not where they are. So please do that, chaps, while we wait for Volume Two.
‘The Diamond Ship’ – live:
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ORDER – [CD]
Artists’ website: fraserbruce.bandcamp.com