DOUGIE MACKENZIE WITH BRIAN MILLER – Along The Way   (Greentrax CDTRAX403)

Along The WayDougie Mackenzie began his musical life singing Gaelic songs but later turned his attention to the Scots ballad tradition. The result is Along The Way, a collection of mostly traditional songs sensitively produced by Ian McCalman. Dougie comes from a tradition of unaccompanied singing – some would say that’s the only way to sing these songs – but some need a little more which is where the guitar and cittern of Brian Miller come in.

Most of these songs are well-known. That said, I don’t believe that I’d heard the opener, ‘The Bonny Wee Lassie’s Answer’ before and, without buying The Greig-Duncan Collection or at least the first volume, I’m unlikely to discover much more about it. It’s the record’s big production number with two instruments and a chorus and it seems to be about a man enlisting in the army but the significance of her answer evades me. One “new” traditional song on an album is a fair return, however. The other unfamiliar title is ‘Here’s A Health To All True Lovers’ which is a variant of a familiar night-visiting song.

The first of the two contemporary songs is Dave Goulder’s ‘The January Man’ and so widespread has it become I confidently expect to see it credited as traditional very soon. The other modern song is Mike Waterson’s ‘Jack Frost’ in which he invokes Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow as he contemplates the frost patterns on his window.

As for the rest – take your pick of your favourites. The set ends with Sean Cannon’s version of ‘The Wild Rover’ (no table banging) and Sheila Stewart’s ‘The Parting Glass’. I‘ve always liked ‘Mill O’ Tifty’s Annie’ and Brian’s arrangement of ‘The Bonny Light Horseman’ doesn’t let the song drag as it sometimes can. Finally, I will draw attention to ‘Erin Go Bragh’, a song which seems to be taking on a new and different resonance in these troubled times.

Sometimes simple and direct traditional songs are just what you need and this set will do nicely.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Ned O’ The Hill’ – live:

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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