ALISTAIR BROWN – When Fishes Fly (Prospect Records PC005)

When Fishes FlyWhen, in the post-Brexit dystopia, you can no longer afford a trip to your local folk club When Fishes Fly is one of the records you can play and remember how things were. Alistair Brown is a veteran Scottish singer and concertina player (now living in Cornwall) and he’s supported by Peter Wray on guitar and cittern and George Chippendale on fiddle and guitar. This is a veteran set as well, in the sense that a mixture of traditional songs and covers such as this is what we’ve been singing since the 60s.

Alistair begins with three traditional songs. The first is ‘Rue’, a relative of ‘Oh No Not I’ and tells of the use of the herb as an abortifacient often with fatal results for the mother. ‘The Glasgow Barber’ is an almost comic song concerning an immigrant from County Mayo who doesn’t like the hairstyle imposed on him by the titular hairdresser and ‘Braw Sailing On The Sea’ is a classic bothy ballad, much recorded in recent years.

Next come two real comic songs. ‘The Ballad Of Lidl And Aldi’ is written by Mickey McConnell and if you haven’t yet heard it see if you can guess the chorus before you do. ‘The Glens’ is something of a favourite of mine, loaded with punning rhymes, on the subject of whisky. Alistair moves then to ‘Shining Down On Sennen’ by Mike O’Connor which is a sort of cousin to Steve Knightley’s ‘Cousin Jack’ and a lovely song but then switches back to two more humorous songs which, I feel, overload the album a little  His version of ‘Get Up And Bar The Door’ is different as is ‘The Working Chap’, sometimes known as ‘Work Life Out To Keep Life In’ and songs by Dave Evardson, Gordon Bok and Karine Polwart do much to balance to humour.

Yes, When Fishes Fly is a good old-fashioned folk-club set and none the worse for that.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘The Lass Of Patie’s Mill’ – live: