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Jim Malcolm
"Resonance" Beltane CD101

 

Anyone see the recent juxtaposition of TV programmes - "Northern Lights" early in the evening and then later, a look at the singing and writing of Jims Malcolm and Reid? The former programme was as awful as the latter was delightful - highlighting the media's continuing inability to accept and understand traditional music and present it without artifice. The producer of the Reid/Malcolm programme deserves a medal.

Northern Lights, on the other hand, should be sunk without trace. Even when well-respected artistes are featured, they are boxed into an insensitive, cabaret style. Harrumph! All of this merely leads me up to Jim's new CD.

Here we have have one of the finest singing voices in Scotland in any style, stretching his vocal chords around a selection of his own, traditional and others' songs. Jim is blessed by a flexible, smooth creamy voice, a range to die for and an ability to let it cast its slightly jazzy spell over whatever he tackles. There are fabulous versions of "Jimmy's Gone Tae Flanders" and Jim Reid's "Rohallion", with Jim's deceptively skilful guitar meandering around gently in the background - just spellbinding. Jim also shows what he can do on guitar alone in his own "New Parliament Rag", a cute Scott Joplinesque guitar+moothie piece dedicated to our MSPs, some of whom are "looking a bit slippery", according to Jim! Bravely, Jim tackles Ed Pickford's "Workers' Song" - one of these rendered intimidating by Dick Gaughan. It's hard to take on a song when such a clearly "definitive" version exists (on Dick's "Handful of Earth"). It's a beautiful bit of singing, but reveals the only aspect of this CD that I could criticise. "Workers' Song" is, by any standards, an angry song, and I don't think Jim does "angry" very often.

Like Dougie McLean, Jim's distinctive voice and instantly-recognisable style are both a blessing and a (very minor) curse. I'm picking nits, as this is a stunning collection of songs, but it could use a "belter" or even a "snarler" to form a contrast with all the wistful evocativeness. The CD marches out chirpily on a bouncy version of "Bonny Briar Bush/Duncan Gray", showing that Jim certainly does "cheeky" with some enthusiasm and panache.

By the way - this CD is pretty much what you'll hear live - with little additional adornment ...doesn't need it!

Alan Murray

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This album was reviewed in Issue 41 of The Living Tradition magazine.