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ISLA ST CLAIR "Royal Lovers and Scandals" Rel Records REHCD 532
ISLA ST CLAIR "Murder & Mayhem" Rel Records REHCD 533

On my first ever tour of Scotland, early 1960s, I filled a blank night by going to a concert featuring singers from the Scottish Folk Federation. There I witnessed an unforgettable performance. A schoolgirl walked on stage and knocked everybody's socks off with her ballad singing. She had poise, confidence, and a startlingly mature voice of the type usually described as 'crystal clear'. I told myself I'd watch this girl's progress. It was worth watching. She had a well-received folk career, then some years later moved into showbiz, becoming Isla St Clair, the nation's sweetheart on TV's 'Generation Game', still singing occasionally.

In the 80s I ran the folk show on BBC Radio Nottingham, and m.c'd their concert at the Civic Theatre, Mansfield, starring Isla. I'd say 80% of the audience had come to see their girl from the 'Gen. Game', not a folk singer. But, Isla came out with a programme of traditional songs and knocked everybody's socks off once again.

Now, in 2000, I have CDs by Isla, which are the first two in a series called 'The Traditional Collection', and not a bad track on either one. 'Royal Lovers & Scandals' includes "Matty Groves", "Bonnie House of Airlie", and a lovely "Marie (sic) Hamilton", banishing memories of a score of Baez clones and their "Three Mary's". On 'Murder & Mayhem' we get the gruesome "Twa Corbies", and gory items like "Lammikin" and "The Baron Of Brackley", tales of blood and betrayal, tellingly sung. Isla is clearly back on home ground. Hold on to your hosiery.

Roy Harris

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This album was reviewed in Issue 39 of The Living Tradition magazine.