Songs of people & places
Here we have a contemporary folk album with a transatlantic session feel featuring slide guitar, mandolin, whistles banjo, bodhran, digeridoo and fingerpicking guitar styles. The songs are from past and present looking at how people and land sit uneasy at times and graciously as one with friendship, hard work, culture and nature – folk songs.
Cradled in the Cairngorms – as a title came about from an Italian tourist at one of my gigs in Glenmore who had been climbing and camping in the deep glens of the Cairngorms and had walked into the bar for some warmth on a cold winter night. Having played a lot of music in various rural Glens I could see how many walkers, bikers and climbers etc came back year after year to the mountains and would meet up with old friends and talk of good times. So the title track came about, lyrics were written in about an hour by loch Morlich. The slide guitar influence on the track came from hearing Gerry Douglas on the “Transatlantic sessions”.
Recorded in Aviemore at the base of The Cairngorms
Crofterman – I spent many summers on the North west coast of Scotland from Skye to Clach-toll near the fishing village of Lochinver. We camped along with the midges on crofters land watching them work (and drink whiskey). The few wealthy landowners who controlled the land and people for centuries had all the power over crofters lives even to the point of forced migration to other countries. Generations of families worked the land, as with peoples across the globe, the Aboriginals and native Americans comes to mind. The ending of the song references these peoples. “Who owns the land and who belongs the land” is the power of the privileged money verses indigenous culture.
Uncle Joe – my uncle Joe was killed by a sniper in world war 2 I have a picture of him on his despatch motorbike in uniform. The song is a dedication to the bravery and respect that all the men and women deserve from all the wars. Many returning from ww2 joined hill walking and cycling clubs are were part of freeing up access on land. Many of these folk are now part of the rich history of climbing and walking in the UK.
Jock Stewart ( trad )- 1869 – 1954 was a piper from Pitlochry his son Alex married Belle Stewart ” Queen amang the Heather” who hailed from Perthshire Blairgowrie in Strathmore as travelling folk. I lived for 18 years in the Strath and passed weekly by the Tinkers at Stanley who camped in bow tents down the old ferry crossing road right up until the 1980’s. Strathmore once had a large number of tinkers come and camp up by the river Ericht and Isla for the fruit picking season. Now there are 1000’s of foreign workers in large fields of caravans on the farms. With the loss of the travellers went their “Cant” a now mostly lost language which gave them part of their strong proud culture. The riverside and woods of Perthshire and Angus glens still have an infinity with the old travelling ways. Jess Smiths “Tales from the tent” plus her other books of the true travelling folk stories are among my favourite books.
Travelling Roads – Travelling around Scotland gives a sense of how vast and wild Scotland can be. A drive through Glencoe on a dark winter moonlight night after a gig shows off Scotlands majesty and character which has determined a lot of our culture. The mountains in a way define Scotland in all its moods. Travelling back in the day by horse must have been a hard life.
Rothsay O ( Trad ) – is a traditional Glasgow drinking song about the folk of Glasgow boarding the steamer boats to go drinking in Rothsay doon the water on the Isle of Bute. A fine Glasgow drinking song. In the pubs you will often hear “he’s steaming” meaning very drunk, the phrase comes from the boats taking the lads and lassies away from the factories for a weekend of socialising transported on the steam boats.
Think O me – written for Andy Jackson a man passionate about access rights and the rights to roam on land and water and an inspiration to many young folk as well as a good friend. We kayaked many a spate Scottish river on the spring melt waters. Many people are remembered by the wilderness they loved and enjoyed.
John Kerr of Clach-toll – was the crofter I spent my childhood summer holidays staying on his croft at Clach-toll on the North west coast of Scotland with the sheep dogs Queenie and Fly, watching the salmon being landed in the large rowing boat at the beach then the nets being mended and hung up beside the salmon bothy. His house was a long wooden shack with 2 rooms and a bowed roof next to a hill burn on an elevated position. Always welcoming and soft spoken and keen to share a dram. Sheep would wander in and out the shack as did the odd bullock and chickens. Sheering sheep and net mending along with clouds of midges and a view to the beach with the red sun setting the sky on fire tints the memories.
Atlantic girl – camping on a beach on the west coast I could see my friend watching and listening as the waves come and go seen from her high cliff top vantage point where the sea birds were displaying their acrobatic skills. I tried to imagine her thoughts so I could weave them into a song.
The Parting Glass ( Trad ) – this is the oldest folk song I know first published in 1654 and the song used to end a night of friendship and song. After Rabby Burns wrote Auld Lang Syne his song became the more popular although there has been a resurgence of the song of late with the likes of Ed Sheering to the pop market. I add my own verse as I’m a believer in folk songs evolving to suit the singer or place while keeping the original theme intact.
The Auld Walker – I met an auld lad going up the mountains in a storm heading to a bothy in Glen Lyon as was I. We asked each other why we walked the hills in such weather. For the auld lad he remembered his chums and thoughts of old. For me it was for the primitive spectacle of the storm itself and the calm that can follow. We talked by candle lights in the bothy of changing times, kids nowadays and the modern commercial way. This last track has had a lot of comments, I wrote it as a viewpoint, everyone is entitled to that. I’ve always enjoyed poetry which is real and asks a question especially questions people don’t want to hear.