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DAVID WILKIE AND COWBOY CELTIC "The Drover Road" Centerfire Music CFA 008


As I get older, it all gets more and more curious. This CD, recorded and mixed at Rocky Mountain Recording Studio in Calgary, is a rum one. But before getting down to the aural content, let me remind you that a reviewer should review the Total Package. And that includes an aspect often ignored: the CD booklet/liner notes. And this one is a cracker.

Stylishly produced, and full of genuinely fascinating information. For instance: one of the tracks is that famous cowboy song "Git Along Little Dogies" that's been sung around a myriad cowboy campfires. Well here, we read the following: "Dogies are calves who have gorged themselves on grass before being weaned, and whose bellies have bloated like rising dough. The cowboys would call them 'little doughnuts', which eventually evolved to 'little dogies'."

Heck, I don't know about YOU, but I found that bit of etymology quite FASCINATING. And there is a lot more really erudite stuff in the booklet to comment on, but space does not allow. Save to say this: Wilkie, in a free verse introduction, says one particularly relevant thing. He says that "the drover road is much more than just the cattle trail to……" (and then names several places, and includes the Goodnight Loving Trail). These are interesting words, that, having listened to the CD, I can say work on TWO levels, and not the ONE he surely meant. Why? Well, because whilst the tracks on this album switch location several times between North America and the British Isles, it still sets out to be a CD with "droving" as its common theme. However, it runs out of gas and includes songs with tenuous or indeed NO link with the subject. So, methinks it IS indeed inadvertently "much more than a cattle trail", and mentioning the "Goodnight Loving Trail" makes me (alas)think of that great song made famous by Utah Phillips. Sadly there is no song on this album in quite that league.

However, that said, this is a very pleasant affair. The musicianship of Cowboy Celtic is often redolent of a Chieftains tribute band - praise indeed! - and the singing of Wilkie and Denise Withnell (a new name to me: she sounds to be in the Kathy Mattea mould) seems effortless in its accomplishment. The songs are interspersed by instrumentals: and the whole affair partly succeeds to (in Wilkie's words) "allow us to saddle up with our ancestors".

Dai Woosnam


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