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"The Best Of ." Castle Music ESMCD930


Well - you know what you're getting here . songs we were all born knowing and singing, rough-and-ready but occasionally truly affecting singing, simple accompaniments and many, many belly-laughs. Matt McGinn, in retrospect, over-wrote drastically. Amongst the political squibs and slight songs, however, there are some 24-carat gold classics and many of them are here. From Singing Kettle territory, there's "Red Yo Yo" and "The Dundee Ghost". More successful political efforts include "Honesty Is Out of the Fashion", "The Ballad of John McLean" and "Lots of Little Soldiers" - where the songs certainly sound like (good!) 1960s folk songs - but the politics are still relevant. "The ballad of the Q4" stands up less well. You'll laugh (again) at "The Pill" . "when I had the room full (of kids) I went tae see the priest . tae tell him ma man Wullie was behavin' like a beast" .. very simple, but very funny and extremely clever wordsmithing. You'll "grigaleyay, grigalayoo" along with "The Hielan' Man" and groan (again) at the excruciating rhyme-overload that is "Willie MacNamara".

Most enjoyably, though - there are the McGinn songs that have truly entered the tradition. "Coorie Doon" is here, as is "The Rolling Hills Of the Border" and "Three Nights and a Sunday" - all very different songs, all now often mistakenly identified as "trad". As Eric Bogle says, rather wryly, this is flattering, but not good for the royalties! Seminal stuff - and there are several classics missing.

Alan Murray

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