The Quiggs are a Scottish folk duo: Stephen Quigg is a former member of The McCalmans who reversed the accepted tradition by bringing back his future wife Pernille from a tour of Scandinavia. If you are familiar with The McCalmans’ music you will immediately get the Quiggs. Threads, their fourth album as a duo, is thoughtful and rather pastoral and makes important points without overdue fuss but, at heart, it’s a record of good songs. Five of them are written by Pernille and the rest come from many places and times, always with Scotland in mind.
They begin with Pete Seeger’s ‘My Rainbow Race’ which although recorded in 1973 feels older and is redolent with Seeger’s homespun philosophy – a plea for sharing, tolerance, all the things that Seeger was about. The Quiggs’ harmonies shine through. Pernille wrote the title track, the threads in question being a metaphor for the things we pass on from generation to generation. ‘Keepers’, written by another former McCalman, Nick Keir, is the nearest they get to a protest song, lamenting the automation of the lighthouses that fringe Scotland’s coast. It’s full of evocative place names: Loch Indaal, Copinsay and Skerryvore.
The urban fox is the inspiration for ‘The Fox’ – The Quiggs singing unaccompanied. Ian McCalman wrote ‘From Greenland’ inspired by the migration of the snow goose as it relates to the lives of those who for, whatever reason, leave their homes. ‘Planting Trees’, written by Pernille, reminds me of some of the foresters I knew, who spent their lives planting trees that they would never see to maturity. ‘The Two Sisters’ isn’t the traditional song but sprang from the worst of the pandemic. We do go back in time now, at least to the time of The White Heather Club (that’s the furthest back I can trace it), with ‘Oor Ain Fireside’, a mashup of words by Joe Corrie with a tune by J Scott Skinner. It’s amazing how many people have claimed authorship of the song – I’m delighted to say that Stephen and Pernille have not done so.
‘Isle Of Hope’ is a song of Irish emigration by Brendan Graham, who also wrote two Eurovision Song Contest winners, although I won’t hold that against him. The Quiggs go unaccompanied for ‘My Johnny Is A Shoemaker’. They label it as a shanty but their performance is that of a young girl looking forward to her lover returning from sea laden with honour and riches. Alas, the pressgang took him and that rarely turns out well.
The final two tracks are embedded in Scottish history and character. ‘The Earl O March’s Daughter’ sounds traditional but was written by Lionel McClelland. It’s a story that cried out to be told in a ballad and McClelland’s interpretation of the tale is superb. Lastly, ’Scotland Will Rise’ looks forward to a free and independent Scotland – a prospect that has receded somewhat in recent days.
Threads is essentially a simple album. Stephen and Pernille sing and play acoustic guitars and Stephen adds banjo and harmonica. It makes for an easy listen and if you heard this set in a folk club you’d reckon you’d enjoyed a good night out.
Artists’ website: www.thequiggs.com
‘Scotland Will Rise’ – live:
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