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IAN BRUCE - "Hodden Grey" - Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX156

The idea behind this album came from Dr Fred Freeman's mammoth series of the Complete Songs of Robert Burns. As Dr Freeman says in the sleeve notes, he was confronted with what has become the perennial challenge of ferreting-out yet another gifted singer to inject new life into the series.

Acknowledging that Ian Bruce is better known as an interpreter of his own songs, the good doctor, however, has featured the distinctive Bruce vocal style on three of the four volumes of the Bard's work so far released.

And while Hodden Grey may be the title, this album is far above the ordinary. Readers of this magazine who know Ian Bruce as a singer/songwriter of no mean talent will know also that he's forever seeking new horizons. Strangely, this quest sees him returning full circle to the Bruce family ceilidhs of his youth.

And his traditional roots are easily spotted here, for that BIG voice is used to great effect in fifteen traditional songs which get an extra lift from the accompaniment of fiddler Catriona MacDonald, Ian Lowthian's sensitive accordion and keyboard work, Dougie Pincock's whistle, flute and percussion and the low whistle and bouzouki of Malcolm Stitt.

There are old favourites such as The Stoutest Man in the Forty-Twa, the Jute Mill Song, The Forfar Sodger and Will Ye Go Tae Flanders, but they're by no means hackneyed.

In a nutshell, this album proves that the combination of a good singer and a good song is very difficult to beat. It's yet another first-class Greentrax production that's well worth buying.

Alan McIntosh Brown

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This album was reviewed in Issue 27 of The Living Tradition magazine.