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SHEILA DOUGLAS "Lines Upon the Water" Ossian Publications OSS99

I have known Sheila Douglas and her family for many years, singing at Sheila-inspired folk clubs and festivals, and enjoying their hospitality in a home where music and wordplay were always on the go. Sheila's commitment to Scottish song and story is well known. She has championed the cause of tradition tirelessly, in practical as well as academic ways, and continues to do so. Now we find her adding her own contribution in the form of the fifty-two songs in this book.

The songs are grouped under topical headings, "Love and Friendship", Tragedy and Sadness", "Comedy and Satire", "Real Life and History", the latter containing the title song and the wonderful "Men 'O the North" one of Sheila's best. In "Love and Friendship" we find songs to Andrew Douglas, Betsy Whyte, Archie Fisher (Oor Fine Singing Laddie), and a warmly affectionate "Toast to Alex Campbell" written when the great man was alive, I'm happy to say.

It's not easy to pick out favourites from this collection (though as I now live in South Wales I find "Aberfan" very moving) nor is it necessary, any singer going through it will find riches for the gleaning. Tom Paxton once wrote in the Sing Out! magazine that one should "Know all the words to Froggie Went A-Courting before starting to write", meaning, of course, know your tradition first. Wise advice, but Sheila Douglas doesn't need it. She knows her tradition, and through her writing skill she bids to extend it. A cassette of seventeen songs sung by Sheila, Jack Beck, and Alan Brown, complements the book. Buy both.

Roy Harris

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This album was reviewed in Issue 31 of The Living Tradition magazine.