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John Watt - "Heroes" - LTCD3001

Some people churn out records with a wearisome regularity, and you wonder what the point is. John Watt certainly isn't one of them and it's been far too long an absence for a man with his ability. It's1976 since the mighty "Shores of the Forth" was first heard and became almost instantaneously a "Desert Island Disc" for me. Now he's back, and on a roll with this 17 track wee bit of magic. A true original is John - can you think of anyone who even remotely resembles him, or is able to address the wide range of concerns he can, in a style that is as unique as his? In another country, they would've afforded him the status of a Victor Borge by now. Anyway, I'll spare the man's blushes and cut to the chase.

17 tracks, apart from three were written by John, a couple being re-done versions of his "greatest hits" - "Pittenweem Jo" and "Kelty Clippie". Here he reminds me of Marianne Faithful(!) - but only in that she too revisited her most well known material and produced versions of them with a 20 years-on voice and John doing the same here, is equally interesting. The sleeve notes refer to him as a prolific writer, but the term "songwriter" has all the wrong connotations.Too often that term has come to refer to the trite and the navel gazing - John on the other hand, seemingly no matter what he does, is informed by the tradition, and a wonderful sly wit pervades much of his material. It struck me that he should be recognised as something of a precursor to Mike Marra, even before I listened to his riposte "I don't like Dundee". If John finds a tune from another's repertoire that is worthwhile, into the recording it goes. So Matt Armour's "Shores ." gave the 1976 album its title track, while here, Jock Ritchie (who played on that album, but is no longer with us) is remembered through a set of tunes called just that. Joe Corrie's "Its Fine to Keep in Wi' the Gaffer" is a prelude to "Ode to Joe Corrie".

There's not just a selection of some fine songs ("Owt for Nowt" about the International brigade, being a particularly good example) but some bonny, bonny tunes splendidly rendered by an assorted group of musicians, including Pete Clark, Fraser Speirs, Jack Beck and also the lesser known David Vernon on accordion. David never seeks to hog the limelight but quietly makes you conscious of the layer he adds to an album that is already full of character and originality. Just one of the many reasons why this CD will be returned to again and again and I don't think that there can be much better thing to say about an album than that last fact. Immensely satisfying.

Hector Christie


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