DICK GAUGHAN – The “Harvard” Tapes: Definitive Concert from 1982 (Greentrax CDTRAX406)

The "Harvard" TapesWhen I first began ‘discovering’ the folk genre, my main go-to artefacts were a small collection of CDs and tapes that belonged to my brother. Names like Woody Guthrie, Christy Moore, Luke Kelly, Ronnie Drew and Dick Gaughan soon became very familiar and they became the gatekeepers to this exotic soundscape. From my first listen to a Dick Gaughan recording, I vividly remember being drawn into this powerful voice and his incredible DADGAD guitar technique and simply just being in awe of what I was hearing. I am glad to say that I found myself in awe once again, listening to the latest chapter of Mr Gaughan’s already noteworthy discography.

The “Harvard” Tapes were recorded in Massachusetts at The Old Cambridge Baptist Church in October of 1982, and after nearly 40 years in the wilderness, they have been re-discovered by Brian O’Donovan (the man responsible for recording the gig) to become Gaughan’s seventh release on the Greentrax label.

There are staples and surprises throughout the record; dazzling renditions of Erin Go Bragh’, ‘Song for Ireland’, ‘The World Turned Upside Down’, ‘Now Westlin Winds’ and ‘Workers Song’ from the landmark (and recently re-released) Handful of Earth LP. We are treated to a powerful version ofYour Daughters And Your Sons’ as well as an almost effortlessly performed trio of reels, which really allow Gaughan’s talents as a guitarist to shine. In ‘The Freedom Come All Ye’, he is joined, for the first time ever, by the late, great, violin virtuoso, Johnny Cunningham, making this version of the song especially poignant.

Following the ten “Harvard” tracks, we are presented with a small selection of more recent Gaughan recordings, from 2010 and 2012; firstly, ‘Lemmings’ a newer Gaughan-penned original, instrumental ‘Sliabh na mBan’ and Dominic Behan’s ‘Connolly Was There’, also included on a Gaughan album (in its entirety) for the first time. Although the job of these tracks is essentially to bolster the length of the album, these selections are a perfect (and welcome) inclusion, continuing and concluding an already incredible record.

Christopher James Sheridan

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‘World Turned Upside Down’ – live and from the same year:

DICK GAUGHAN – Handful Of Earth (Topic TTSCD005)

Handful Of EarthOf the twenty-some albums that Dick Gaughan has recorded, Handful Of Earth is generally held to be his best. That’s tough, given that it was his fifth solo record and is almost forty years old. Personally, I lean towards Parallel Lines, his collaboration with Andy Irvine, but Handful Of Earth has more than stood the test of time since its release in 1981.

I remember remarks made by Dick at a couple of gigs – where and when I can’t recall – but what he said stuck with me. The first was about the Scots language which he employs here. It’s not Gaelic nor is it, as he explained, English with some unfamiliar words but a unique tongue. Sadly, its use gained him the reputation of being hard to understand but like all good art his music requires a little work by the listener and these days we wouldn’t even think such a thing.

The set opens with ‘Erin-Go-Bragh’ featuring Brian McNeill’s fiddle and Phil Cunningham’s whistle. It’s essentially about racism and its narrative is akin to asking a young British Asian where in Bangladesh he was from. And if you think that doesn’t happen… Next is ‘Now Westlin Winds’ from the pen, at least in part, of Robert Burns. It’s become very familiar now but Gaughan’s version is remarkably unsentimental for what is essentially a love song. ‘Craigie Hill’ is probably Irish in origin despite there being a Craigie Hill near Perth and another near Kilmarnock but Gaughan mixes Scottish, Irish and even English songs with little regard for geography.

The other remark I remember is to the effect that the first victims of the British Empire were the English, an opinion he expresses in his notes introducing ‘World Turned Upside Down’. It may turn out that the English and the Welsh will be the last victims, too. Scotland will have enough sense to get out in time. ‘The Snow It Melts The Soonest’ is another song that has perhaps been over-sung but here again, Gaughan delivers an unsentimental reading, one of the few I still care to listen to.

Dick Gaughan was as famed for his guitar playing and so the first side of the original pressing closed with ‘First Kiss At Parting’ – his own composition – and the second begins with ‘Scojun Waltz/Randers Hopsa’ again featuring Brian McNeill on fiddle and bass. The second tune is Danish – I forgot to mention them earlier. The last three songs are all “contemporary” for want of a better word. The first of them is Phil Colclough’s ‘Song For Ireland’, ostensibly a hymn in praise of the beauty of that country but with a sting in the tail as the singer looks to the north. Ed Pickford’s ‘Workers’ Song’ gives the album its title and is still terribly relevant today. Finally, Dick straps on his Telecaster again and is joined by Phil Cunningham and Stewart Isbister for his most famous song, ‘Both Sides The Tweed’. This was a traditional song but, as Gaughan explains in his notes, he didn’t like the tune and rewrote the words!

I suspect that most of you have a copy of Handful Of Earth but if it’s lost or worn out you can scarcely make a better purchase than this Topic Treasure.

Dai Jeffries

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Label website: www.topicrecords.co.uk

‘Now Westlin Winds’ – live from 1983:

Kate Rusby releases New Album ‘20’ to Mark 20 Years of Music Making

Kate Rusby 20FEATURING COLLABORATIONS WITH THE CREAM OF ROCK, FOLK & BLUEGRASS ARTISTS INCLUDING PAUL WELLER, RICHARD THOMPSON, NIC JONES, DICK GAUGHAN, PHIL SELWAY, MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER, CHRIS THILE, EDDI READER AND MORE…

The Barnsley nightingale Kate Rusby has released a new album to celebrate 20 years of making music. Entitled ‘20’ the album features new recordings of Kate’s favourite songs from throughout her illustrious career.

From the trad folk of ‘Jolly Plough Boys’ and ‘Annan Waters’ from her solo debut ‘Hourglass’ (’98) to the seasonal beauty of ‘Home’ from her 2011 Christmas album ‘While Mortals Sleep’ via ‘Unquiet Grave’, ‘Sho Heen’ and ‘Wild Goose’ from her Mercury nominated ’99 album ‘Sleepless’, the title tracks from ‘Underneath The Stars’ (2004) and ‘Awkward Annie’ (2007) and many more, Kate dips into every corner of her catalogue to create a set that is a wonderful introduction for the uninitiated and a fabulous reinterpretation of her ‘greatest hits’ for the committed fan. In addition Kate has written and recorded a beautiful new song for this album called ‘Sun Grazers’, on which she duets with Paul Weller, who has never sounded in finer voice. Other collaborators on the album include folk giants Richard Thompson, Nic Jones, Paul Brady and Dick Gaughan, Radiohead drummer Phil Selway, bluegrass upstarts Chris Thile and Sarah Jarosz, American folk & country singer Mary Chapin Carpenter, Eddi Reader and many more.

‘20’ has been released on the Rusby family’s Pure Records label via Island Records. For this release Island has resurrected the legendary ‘Island Pink’ label on which albums by Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Sandy Denny, and Richard & Linda Thompson were released during the 70s.

‘20’ is available on double CD and digital download from the folking store link below. The full tracklisting is:

DISC 1

1. Awkward Annie (feat. Chris Thile)

2. Unquiet Grave (feat. Aoife O’Donovan)

3. Sun Grazers (feat. Paul Weller)

4. The Lark (feat. Nic Jones)

5. Planets (feat. Sarah Jarosz)

6. Wandering Soul (feat. Eddi Reader & Dick Gaughan)

7. Who Will Sing me Lullabies (feat. Richard Thompson & Philip Selway)

8. Jolly Plough Boys (feat. Dick Gaughan)

9. Sho Heen (feat. Eddi Reader, Phillip Selway & Jerry Douglas)

10.Bitter Boy (feat. Damien O’Kane)

 

DISC 2

1. I Courted a Sailor (feat. Jim Causley)

2. Mocking Bird (feat. Sara Watkins)

3. The Good Man (feat. Joe Rusby & Jerry Douglas)

4. Annan Waters (feat. Bob Fox)

5. All God’s Angels (feat. Paul Brady)

6. Elfin Knight (feat. Dave Burland)

7. Wild Goose (feat. Stephen Fretwell)

8. Home (feat. Mary Chapin Carpenter)

9. Underneath the Stars (feat. Grimethorpe Colliery Band)

10.Bring me a Boat (feat. Declan O’Rourke)

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Words and music on all songs are by Kate Rusby except ‘Jolly Plough Boys’ and ‘Annan Waters’, which are traditional songs arranged by Kate, ‘The Good Man’ whose words are a combination of trad and Kate with the tune written by Kate, and ‘Bring Me A Boat’, which has lyrics by Kate and melody by Phil Cunningham.

Kate Rusby was born into a musical family in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. Her parents had a ceilidh band which Kate and her sister Emma joined at a very early age. Kate’s musical world is still very much a family affair – her parents, along with Emma and her brother Joe manage her, run her label, record her albums and book her tours, while her husband Damien O’Kane co-produces her records and plays guitar in her band. Kate’s first album release was a collaboration with another young singer – ‘Kate Rusby & Kathryn Roberts’ (’95). She has since released 9 solo albums: ‘Hourglass’ (’98), ‘Sleepless’ (’99), ‘Little Lights’ (2001), ‘Underneath The Stars’ (2004), ‘The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly’ (2005), ‘Awkward Annie’ (2007), ‘Sweet Bells’ (2008), ‘Make The Light’ (2010), and ‘While Mortals Sleep’ (2011). She was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in ’99 and has won Folk singer of the year (2000), Best album (2000), Best song twice (2002 for “Who Will Sing Me Lullabies” and 2006 for “No Names”) and Best Live Act (2006) at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Proof that the cottage industry approach can pay off in the 21st century, Kate has quietly sold over a million records on the family-run independent label Pure Records and regularly plays sell-out tours around the country.

EWAN McLENNAN – The Last Bird To Sing

Indelibly etched in my mind are the many times I recollect seeing Dick Gaughan perform at folk clubs throughout the UK. His passion and at times seething contempt for an unjust society also carries over into that conveyed by this decade’s young pretender Ewan McLennan. Perhaps more restrained but still with a bite that would be the envy of many a Rottweiler his composition “Whistling The Esperanza” is a damning indictment of a company’s greed at the expense of those who have to ply their trade getting their hands dirty digging for gold. Much like Durham’s pitman poet Tommy Armstrong his way with words will I’m sure reverberate for years to come earning him a place in the ‘folk’ balladeers hall of fame.

On another track memories of the “Your Country Needs You…” proclaimed by Lord Kitchener from the famous poster are given short shrift in another of McLennan’s songs “Joe Glenton” which might prick your conscience in a Tom Paxton kind of way. He’s also no slouch on the guitar with a precisely finger-picked “Reeling & Staggering/Napoleon Crossing The Alps” (hands up anyone old enough to remember the Morris On version of ‘The Cuckoo’s Nest’…oh, maybe it’s just me then?). With contributions from John McCusker, Martin Simpson, Karine Polwart and Laurence Blackadder this second recording doesn’t appear to have been difficult at all and, along with the evocative artwork by Meg Buik I’d say it’s well worth purchasing to show off your musical taste at a more civilised version of Come Dine With Me.

PETE FYFE

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Artist’s website: www.ewanmclennan.co.uk

FAR, FAR FROM YPRES – ONE OF THE EMOTIONAL HIGHLIGHTS OF CELTIC CONNECTIONS 2012

A stage show featuring songs, music, poetry and images of WW1, and inspired by a double CD published by Greentrax Recordings, ‘Far, Far From Ypres’, played to a packed audience at The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday, 21st January, as part of Celtic Connections 2012.

This premier performance took place in a week when the film War Horse went on general release.  People who had seen both War Horse and Far, Far from Ypres commented on how the human voice in combination with the projected still images in the Ypres show had an even greater emotional impact on them than the film.

Narrated by Iain Anderson of BBC Radio Scotland, the show grew from an initial plan for 12 musicians to a cast of 23 people.  The show was both entertaining and emotional resulting in a standing ovation in the packed hall.  Iain Anderson said that for him this was the most emotional event he has ever participated in.

FAR, FAR FROM YPRES – CELTIC CONNECTIONS STAGE SHOW STARTS WITH CAST OF 12 AND ENDS UP WITH 23.

‘ …The enthusiasm and commitment from all the participants is immense and was a remarkable and unique stage presentation.’

‘Far, Far From Ypres’ presented the Songs, Poems & Music of World War 1, much of it viewed from a Scottish perspective.  The performance was as enjoyable as it was thought provoking and inspirational.  A shorter version of the show was a highlight of a recent concert in The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Scotland’s major folk music label, Greentrax Recordings.

The live performance followed on from a critically acclaimed album ‘Far, Far From Ypres – Songs, Poems & Music of World War 1’ which Greentrax Recordings released in 2008.  As well as being successful as a music release, the album is featured in Army Museums in the UK and has become an inspirational resource for many visitors to the Visitor Centres and Museums in Belgium and France.

When Ian McCalman of the Scottish folk group, The McCalmans, was asked to produce the show, he envisaged the size of the cast being limited to 12.  He was then inundated by calls from musicians who had some sort of distant connection to the Great War.  Ian McCalman said; “Budget was not a priority to those musicians, who were more interested in being involved in a project with which they could all identify.  We couldn’t possibly have attracted ‘names’ like Barbara Dickson, Dick Gaughan, Sangsters, Stephen Quigg and the other equally talented musicians if they had not been interested in the show’s content.  It is a labour of love for them all and I applaud them for it.”  “The enthusiasm and commitment from all the participants is immense and has resulted in a remarkable and unique stage presentation.”

Ian McCalman committed himself totally to the stage show assembling a cast of experienced performers including Barbara Dickson, Dick Gaughan, Ian Bruce. Stevie Palmer, Stephen Quigg, Donald Hay, Tom Ward and folk groups Sangsters, Soopna and Ragged Glory.  Iain Anderson of BBC Radio Scotland was the narrator for the stage show.

Back projection of graphics and photographs from WW1 was by Pete Heywood, Editor of The Living Tradition magazine.  The Living Tradition featured Far, Far from Ypres after it was released on CD and encouraged the idea of extending the project to include a staged version.

The show was sold out two weeks in advance of the performance.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Three Score & Ten (Topic Records)

What makes a good CD box-set great? When it comes as beautifully packaged as this 70th Anniversary Topic Records collection. The wow factor comes from the moment you first open the book that includes seven…yes, seven…CDs highlighting arguably the best British folk record label ever. Although I was aware of the label for some years previously (put off mainly by the cheap look of the album sleeves) I was first properly introduced to the company when I visited the Free Reed record shop in Camden in 1977. At the time I was (and still am) heavily into Celtic music but on talking to Doug who was running the shop at the time it was suggested I should try some of the Topic catalogue. Of course I wasn’t disappointed and eagerly clutching June Tabor’s “Airs & Graces”, Martin Carthy’s “Crown Of Horn” and Dick Gaughan’s “Coppers & Brass” headed home with a grin as broad as the proverbial Cheshire cat. I also remember thinking that English music was at last now as well represented as the Celtic based American record label Green Linnet. The record sleeves by this time were far better represented by Tony Engle’s excellent photography superseding the bland two colour efforts originally utilised by the company and certainly provided a far classier look that heralded the albums enclosed. The history of Topic Records is well documented by Tony Engle and David Suff in the 108 page book that accompanies the CDs from it’s humble beginnings representing the Workers’ Music Association to it’s current status as the longest surviving independent record label in the world and who would blame them for blowing their own trumpet at such an achievement? A sense of nostalgia will wash over those of you of a certain age as you cast an eye over the list of who’s who of the British tradition and Revival with 144 tracks providing but a snippet of the many albums that the company has produced over the years. Artists the calibre of Ewan MacColl, A L Lloyd, Pete Seeger and longest serving associates The Watersons to more recent recruits including Eliza Carthy, Tim Van Eyken, Martin Simpson and Bob Fox have all graced the label with their sparkling performances and, as the saying goes, it makes you proud to be British!

PETE FYFE

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Label’s website: www.topicrecords.co.uk