EWAN McLENNAN – Rags & Robes (Fellside Recordings FECD235)

You sometimes know from the opening track if an album’s for you and this first release by Ewan McLennan is one such recording. In bringing together a selection of tried and tested standards including “Tramps & Hawkers”, “Jamie Foyers” and “Arthur McBride”, McLennan proves that old material can be refreshed and, given a new lick of paint, appear as fresh as the day it was written. In his press release his publicist cites Bobby Eaglesham, Ian Campbell and Archie Fisher as comparisons to Ewan’s vocal style. If I may be so presumptuous I’d also like to add to the mix the gentle brogue of the sadly departed Tony Cuffe. The inclusion of his own self-penned observations in the form of “Another Morning’s Beggar” and his eloquent anti-war composition “Yorkshire Regiment” also shows that we might have a contender for ‘folk’ songwriter of the year. Now, ‘nice’ isn’t a word I’d often use to describe an artist but if vocal presentation dignifies the character of the performer I’m quite sure I’ve read the signs correctly. There’s nothing rushed in the performance, just a subtle delivery that injects warmth and charm to the lyrics. Not surprisingly this carries over to the inclusion of a couple of ‘cool’ dance tunes “Jer The Rigger/Flower Of Scotland” (Martin Hayes would, I’m sure be impressed!) and a lovely setting of “Auld Lang Syne”. Aided by Peter Tickell’s fiddle and Jackie Oates viola this is an impressive debut by an artist I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more of and yet another feather in the cap to Paul Adam’s Fellside Recordings.