Rough Guide To Scottish Music CD Review

Various Artists - The Rough Guide To Scottish Music
Various Artists – The Rough Guide To Scottish Music
Various Artists

The Rough Guide To Scottish Music (World Music Network RGNET 1110, 2003)

In the booklet that comes with this CD it says that Scottish music is…a rich musical heritage rooted, not stuck, in the past…clearly a living tradition…which seems a fair claim to make. For example Emily Smith, who at the time of recording was still studying for a degree in Scottish music, melds a new tune with an old song, Fair Helen Of Kirkconnel. Equally, Deaf Shepherd draw on music from all over the country and join traditional with more contemporary material. They play with verve and invention and in some ways their music sounds timeless and quintessentially Scottish.

The spare beauty of the solo fiddle is almost caught in the work of Bob Hobkirk though it is, by virtue of technology, joined by accordion. He recorded his track in 1973 and I’m not sure why the second instrument was added. It sounds fine but I would have liked to hear the solo fiddle.

There are plenty of other instrumentals that are worth hearing, for example, Pete Clark’s stately Coilsfield House with formal and elegant fiddle and cello setting the melody in restrained surroundings. A superb example of a treatment which enhances the traditional tune. One instrumental outing that I can’t really recommend is a grisly mix of calypso rhythms and Scottish reel. I don’t mind fusions but this sounds like a horrible mistake.

There are a number of winsome ballads here too, my favourite being Fordell Ball sung by Jack Beck. It features a tune I’ve heard many times in both Irish and Scots music and is set to words by Jimmy Dunn. And for those who know Gaelic, Christine Primrose sings, accompanied by harp and whistle. Whether you know the language or not doesn’t matter, as it is still a moving and attractive sound.

Overall there is plenty to attract a newcomer to the music as well as pleasing anyone with an interest in it already. Just one question – how come there is nothing here by one of Scotland’s greatest singers, Dick Gaughan?