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THE GAUGERS "Awa' Wi' the Rovin Sailor" City of Aberdeen Libraries CACD101

The Gaugers, for anyone who doesn't know, are Arthur Watson, Tam Spiers and Peter Hall. Between them, they play whistle, fiddle, viola, concertina, melodeon and keyboard, but what marks them out as absolute masters of their craft is their voices. From the very first syllables you can tell that these are the sounds of the North East, being sung by men who not only understand, but also empathise with, their tradition.

Following the success of "The Fighting Scot", in which they presented soldiers' songs, this CD sets out to illustrate the life of those who earned their living from the sea. And illustrate it, it certainly does, with a variety of songs and tunes incorporating shanties, ballads, sad songs, funny songs and even a hymn (Will Your Anchor Hold?).

Perhaps the best word I can find to describe the Gaugers approach to their singing is restraint. This does not, as some think, mean the same as constraint. You can convey as much power and emotion by taking your time and thinking about what your words mean and then letting your audience digest that meaning as you can by going all out. Listen to their version of "The Diamond Ship" to see what I mean - it's a reflective song, not just a celebration of the exploits of the whalers.

Here we have a grand mixture of well-known and not so well-known songs, all performed with a fine sensitivity for their content, whether serious and poignant or humorous, like "The Boddamers Hinged the Monkey".

The packaging of this CD is superb, with a thirty-six page booklet giving the words and music of each number, along with background notes. At fifty-two minutes playing time this is indeed a great resource for anyone interested in the nautical heritage of the area. Full acknowledgement to the City of Aberdeen for its involvement - if this is the result of municipal support, we should all be down at our Council Offices now demanding that they all follow suit for local musicians.

I can hardly wait for the Gaugers next "theme" volumes, especially as they are going to including one on drinking songs!

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 7 of The Living Tradition magazine.