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VARIOUS ARTISTS "Songs of the Travelling People" Saydisc CDSLD 407

"Songs of the Travelling People" is a collection of music and song selected from "field" recordings made by Peter Kennedy between 1951 and 1968. Although previously released individually in various forms, most are now long deleted. This compelling selection of personable characters will hopefully increase the accessibility of this material to both old and new audiences. "Travelling People" is very much a blanket term, but the families, communities and individuals who were the "Travelling People", played their part in the formation of what has become traditional music. On the move between town and country, hop picking, potato lifting, horse dealing, surviving the famine times between the feasts, story, music and song was shared and absorbed and travelled with them often gaining a new lease of life.

Every singer and player here is worth a mention. Davie Stewart sings with great attack and freedom of spirit on "Tramps an' Hawkers", "Macpherson's Lament", "The Beggar Wench" and the bothy ballad "Aul' Jockey Bruce o' the Fornet", with his button accordion much in evidence. Jeannie Robertson sings on three tracks including ,"The Laird o' the Dainty Doon-by" and "The Overgate". Jeannie Robertson's singing style could encompass all material from big ballads to children's street songs. A knowledgeable, precise, even disciplined singer, for many, Jeannie Robertson is THE voice of traditional song. Phoebe Smith pushes to the limit with her highly emotionally charged versions of "A Blacksmith Courted Me" and "Higher Germanie". Duncan McPhee has a more subtle approach in "The Banks o' the Roses", but still aims at the listener's heart. The incomparable Margaret Barry with her powerful voice and challenging, absorbing singing style elevates her songs into glorious epics. Also to be heard is the great Belle Stewart with her own song "The Berryfields of Blair", and her daughter Kathie Stewart with a G.H. Morris song "Twa Heids Are Better Than Yin". Jimmy McBeath uses his husky, rolling vibrato tones on heartwarming versions of two more G.H. Morris songs, "The Muckin' o' Geordie's Byre" and "The Moss o' Burreldale". There is music from Frank O'Connor, Willie Kelby, Donald and Albert Stewart and Charlie Lindsay, more songs from Paddy Doran, Janet Penfold, Angela Brasil and Carolyne Hughes.

Recording technique and equipment has greatly improved since the original recordings were made (some of them more than forty years ago), but a combination of care and attention at the time of recording and modern studio facilities have provided clear, good quality sound. There are "noises off" on some tracks, doors closing and background conversation, but this adds to the liveliness and general feel, further involving the listener in the proceedings. The majority of the performers on this CD have travelled on to some other place. To those who are still "gaun aboot folk", I wish peace and contentment.

Peter Fairbairn

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This album was reviewed in Issue 10 of The Living Tradition magazine.