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ALISTAIR HULETT "In Sleepy Scotland" Red Rattler RATCD004

English Trades Unionists in the 19th century gave our country the epithet "sleepy Scotland" because of their belief that we were unlikely to do anything very much to advance the cause of socialism - then came John Maclean and the other Red Clydesiders to prove them wrong. Alistair Hulett has a very clear set of ideals which he articulates clearly and passionately in his own writings, always singing with total conviction, and the title track of this latest CD is a fine example of the word-pictures that Alistair draws to get you thinking about issues.

Two other self-penned numbers,' By Ibrox Park' and 'The Dark Loch', reflect further on historical events with contemporary repercussions, but the rest of the material demonstrates Alistair's mastery of traditional song and music. His driving yet melodic guitar style and powerful voice are particularly suited to the ballads and other songs represented here. Not everyone can make a ten-minute version of 'Tam Lin' an enjoyable experience, but here we have a version which carries the listener along, telling the story and enthralling at the same time. Not that all the traditional songs are that heavy - take the likes of 'Tinker In The Lum', where the moral is made with pawky humour.

It is usually pointless to try to pick out personal favourite tracks on any CD, but I thought I'd try anyway, but couldn't make my mind up between two other (if lesser-known) ballads, 'Geordie' and 'Brown Adam'. See what I mean about pointless?

The whole collection of ten songs and two instrumental tracks blend together to give a good idea of what the man sounds like in the flesh. If you have heard him live, you'll want to buy this, if you buy this, you'll want to hear him. Top marks, too, for well-crafted accompaniment from Gavin Livingstone, Aidan O'Rourke and Keith Easdale, who help to make sure that I'll be playing this a lot - not just to myself, but to anyone else who hasn't heard it.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 43 of The Living Tradition magazine.