I had a clever introduction about another young singer falling into good company to make her debut but, of course, as lead vocalist with Malinky for ten years, Fiona Hunter has put in the miles already.
However this is her solo debut and the company is indeed good. There’s former band-mate Mike Vass who also produced the record and wrote a couple of the tunes that are woven into the songs; Matheu Watson who is everyone’s favourite Scottish guitarist at the moment; Euan Watson on double bass and Gillian Frame as second vocalist. Fiona’s source material is the wider Scots tradition, including Roberts Tannahill and Burns, which we can extend to Ewan McVicar’s ‘Shift And Spin’, which sounds more traditional than some traditional songs, and Andy Hunter’s ‘Ye Hielan Chiels’. Hey, it’s forty years old now!
Fiona’s skill is that she is equally convincing when singing a piece of nonsense like ‘The Weary Pund O’ Tow’ as when delivering a big ballad such as ‘The Cruel Mother’ or ‘Young Emsley’ – a variant of the young sailor murdered by his girl-friend’s parents story. There’s a favourite of mine here, ‘The Bleacher Lass O’ Kelvinhaugh’, and another piece of silliness to finish with in the shape of ‘Jock Hawk’s Adventures In Glasgow’ complete with the most tuneful chorus of drunks you’ll ever hear bashing out ‘Barrett’s Privateers’. The band is restrained in accompaniment and provides Fiona a platform for her cello while having free rein to stretch out in the instrumental passages. This is destined to be another of my albums of the year.
*** Although Fiona Hunter is officially released on March 3rd you can buy an advance copy from her website now. ***
This CD had remained on my ‘to do’ list for quite a while so I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to Duncan for the lateness in the review’s eventual arrival…and also to PR man Bob Buchan for reminding me to check it out. Opening with the bright and breezy “Days Like Today” with its Bluebells “Young At Heart” country ‘feel’ (particularly thanks to the swooping fiddle of Chris Stout’s fiddle) it’s obvious that McCrone has a happy, optimistic outlook on life. Surely this track alone should be worth National Radio play (is anyone at BBC Radio 2 listening?) although knowing the industry’s foibles it will more than likely fall through the cracks. Judging by the songs included on the album he has taken the time to craft each track with the help of some fine musicians including the afore-mentioned Stout, his songwriting partner Cy Jack (bass), Stevie Lawrence (most things stringed), Finlay MacDonald (highland pipes) and Lindisfarne’s drummer Ray Laidlaw. For soft Southerner’s like me, you might be interested that Mr McCrone has included the song “Baltic Street” by Carol Prior of Carol & Alan Prior fame and obviously shows discerning choice as he also includes the wistful “Ae Fond Kiss” by Robert Burns for good measure. This is the kind of album that you will put on and think why haven’t I heard more of this fine singer? Established I presume in his native Scotland, Duncan really should be more widely acknowledged as a performer of great merit by a discerning audience (which I know you are) and I suggest you buy this recording as proof. You won’t be disappointed.
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