ZETOR IN THE KAILYARD – Collateral (own label ZITK001)

CollateralZetor In The Kailyard are a multi-instrumental duo – Kate Babcock and Roddy Johnston – and when I say “multi” I really do mean multi. Collateral is their debut album and the subject of the title and the music here is the fallout of conflict: refugees and immigration and, from a British point of view, emigration and transportation. Superficially, this is an album of mostly traditional Scottish music, which you would no doubt enjoy for that alone but deeper down it is so much more.

The opening instrumental, ‘Collateral’, sets a contemporary scene with an exotic eastern feel. You immediately get the idea of immigrants from the Middle East and north Africa and the culture they bring with them but, as Kate and Roddy demonstrate, the story is much older. ‘Jamie Raeburn’ is well-known song of transportation and I suppose we can be grateful that it doesn’t happen any more – not that Australia or the USA would be amenable to the idea.

‘By The Hush’ concerns economic migration and the fate of Irish emigrants who were pressed into the Union army and I’ve a nasty feeling that that still goes on in some parts of the world. There are two Woody Guthrie songs here – both dust bowl ballads – and ‘Old Dusty Road’ actually refers to the migrant workers as refugees. ‘Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes’ is the song of an exile longing for home while ‘The Burning Of Auchindoon’ reminds us that none of this is new.

I’d love to be able to describe the music that envelops these songs. It’s more than just accompaniment as it paints soundscapes. To give just one example, ‘Fleshmarket Close’, written for the Edinburgh landmark, is played as though it was an Arabic tune: flute, alto saxophone, pipes, saz, darabuka and Roddy’s various stringed instruments blending together. The whole, marvellous record brings these musical elements together and I enthusiastically recommend it.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: https://www.zetorinthekailyard.com/

‘Fleshmarket Close’ – live: