GEORGE DUFF – The Collier Laddie (BEAGCD BEAG CD005)

Collier LaddieAlthough he’s been singing for many years and is well-known and respected in Scotland George Duff hadn’t until now made a solo album. He is The Collier Laddie of the title – a National Coal Board engineer, to be precise – and a fair part of his repertoire is made up miners’ songs. He hasn’t gone for a thematic record, however, and here you’ll hear romantic songs, two of Robert Burns’ lyrics and Hamish Henderson’s most famous song. George has a terrifically strong and clear voice and is steeped in Scottish tradition but his album encompasses modern production values, thanks in part to co-producer Kevin Macleod. The assembled musicians include Mike Katz, John Martin and Mark Dunlop – quality assured.

The album opens with the title track and ‘The Blackleg Miner’, performed in his typically robust style before switching to gentler thoughts with ‘The Banks Of The Bann’. I have to say that The Collier Laddie includes quite a few of my favourite songs of which this is one. There are some contemporary songs among the traditional. Brian McNeill’s ‘The Prince Of Darkness’ is as grim as any mining song I’ve ever heard; Geordie McIntyre’s ‘Remember Connolly’, with bodhran accompaniment from Dunlop, takes us into the political arena to be followed by Alistair Hulett’s heart-breaking ‘He Fades Away’ – an example of perfect sequencing in my humble opinion. I don’t suppose ‘The D-Day Dodgers’ can be considered contemporary any more but ‘When These Shoes Were New’ can. Michael Marra’s song is better known as ‘Take Me Out Drinking Tonight’ but this is his preferred title and it makes a fitting, if slightly stereotypical, ending to an album of Scottish songs.

I’ve really enjoyed this album and if you were beginning to think that people don’t make records like this any more, here’s one to prove that they do.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Rattlin’ Roarin’ Willie’ with Kevin Macleod:

MALINKY – Far Better Days (Malinky Music MM001)

FarBetterDaysI love the music that is being produced in Scotland these days. I love its adventurousness and its imagination. I love the way that musical partnerships come together and split apart as though there is too much music for anyone to stand still long enough to make two albums together. But behind all this is the wealth of traditional music that stretches back over the centuries and underpins all the innovation.

Which is where Malinky come in. They are dedicated to Scots song and uncompromising in their commitment to the Scots language, which is a little surprising when you remember that their early years helped to propel Karen Polwart to solo songwriter stardom. Malinky are not averse to borrowing a song when it’s appropriate, however, so the version of ‘The Twa Sisters’ is translated from the original Swedish by Steve Byrne. ‘Long Cookstown’ is an Irish song, presumably brought in by Mark Dunlop who sings it; ‘The Wild Geese’ is a poem by Violet Jacob set to music by Jim Reid and Mike Vass gets to include one of his own tunes.

The rest is pure Scots traditional and my favourite is a song I’ve known for years but is rarely heard this far south. ‘The Bonnie Hoose O Airlie’ is a story of 17th century warfare between the royalist Earl Of Airlie and the anti-monarchist Earl Of Argyll although you can’t help but feel that there was something more opportunistic behind the attack given that Airlie wasn’t even there. The story has been embellished over the years but it’s still a superb song and beautifully sung by Fiona Hunter. Second to it but only by a whisker is ‘Son David’, another beautiful song telling a grim story. This version comes from Jeannie Robertson and features producer Donald Shaw on Ivor Cutler’s old harmonium and rich harmony singing from all four band members.

It’s not all gloom and bloodshed. ‘The Brisk Young Lad’ is a tale of failed courtship and ‘The Moss O Burreldale’ is apparently about a fight between Traveller families although it sounds far too jolly for that – just how does one plait one’s knees?

As I remarked, Malinky are somewhat uncompromising in their use of language and a crash course in Scots dialect would be advantageous but most of it makes perfect sense with the odd word or phrase to be deciphered. Oddly, Violet Jacob’s words are the most difficult.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: www.malinky.com

A live version of ‘The Wild Geese’ recorded in 2009: