Do you remember when a band would go into a studio with a bunch of songs and make an album relying on nothing more than their own talent and a sensitive engineer? North Sea Gas do. The multi-instrumental trio of Dave Gilfillan, Ronnie MacDonald and Grant Simpson have been in the business for almost forty years with Hearth & Homeland being their twenty-first album. It seems that there is a movement in Scottish music towards turning the clock back to a simpler time and turning their attention back to song.
This collection of old and new songs begins with ‘Wha Wadna Fecht For Charlie’ and I couldn’t help thinking that we could do with a modern equivalent of a martial Jacobite song. The drum beats and the fiddle sings and then the line-up switches to guitar, mandola and bodhran for ‘The Jolly Beggarman’, the story of a farmer’s daughter who is unable to find a small town in Berkshire. ‘The Water Is Wide’ is followed by a set of tunes written by Simpson and then comes Gilfillan’s ‘The Fields O’Rosslyn’ about a battle of 1302 between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland. The return of those days could be just around the corner!
‘Ye Banks And Braes’ is the first of two Burns’ compositions and that’s followed by two modern songs. The first is Steven Clark’s rather wonderful ‘Coming Home’ about the return of “all Jock Tamson’s bairns” to their ancestral homeland. North Sea Gas have amended the last verse to encompass the historical Scottish diaspora to north America and the antipodes. There is a return to the theme of exile in ‘The Mission Hall’ but the exiles are in London are the mission hall is a long way behind. ‘Rough Justice’ was intended to be funny but the events of last week give it an alarming prescience.
Hearth & Homeland closes with another Jacobite song, ‘O’er The Water Tae Charlie’ bringing us full circle and ready to start again. This is a splendid album for those who like their folk music pure and simple.
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Artists’ website: www.northseagas.co.uk
There is nothing from Hearth & Homeland on line yet so I make no apology for posting one of my all-time favourite songs – ‘Coshieville’: