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Dick Gaughan's album "Sail On~"
DICK GAUGHAN - "Sail On" - Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX109

Commitment. Passion. Honesty. You'll rarely find a review of a Dick Gaughan recording or concert that doesn't come up with one of these terms.

As a singer, writer, guitarist and constructor of bandwagons, he's such a colossal figure in the world of Scottish music that it seems like he's always been there, yet it's seven long years since his last solo album "Call it Freedom".

But the Clan Alba diversion - ongoing or not - is set aside here, for "Sail On" is very much a solo album with no "old pals" tracks or makeweight session tunes. It's produced by the man himself, so what's been going through his creative mind during that time and, having come down from the mountain, what has he chosen to lay before us?

Well, predictable it isn't, for of the eleven tracks there are three Gaughan originals - the title song of which is a cracker - and cover versions so diverse as the Stones' "Ruby Tuesday" (vocal, guitar and clarsach!), Michael J Murphy's "Geronimo's Cadillac" and Pete Seeger's Vietnam allegory "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy".

There are songs by Allan Taylor, Brian McNeill and Richard Thompson and what might be called the definitive remixes of Hamish Henderson's classic "Freedom Come-All-Ye" and "Farewell to Sicily", with the latter taken very slowly and meaningfully and clocking in at over eleven minutes.

The voice is as cutting as ever and there are technical notes in the insert with the various guitar tunings so you can try for yourself, but a word of warning: this can be disheartening.

The backings might upset some folk purists but interpreted by musicians of the calibre of Mary MacMaster, Patsy Seddon, Mike Travis and Fred Morrison, each is suited ideally to the song, and in no way detracts or distracts from its meaning.

Dick Gaughan intends the album to be interpreted as a shout of hope in troubled times and it's dedicated to all his friends on the Internet. For this man it's but a small step from Jeannie Robertson and Jimmy MacBeath to cyberspace.

Oh yes. Commitment. Passion. Honesty. They're all here. Buy it.

Alan Brown

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This album was reviewed in Issue 17 of The Living Tradition magazine.