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The Gaugers - “Beware Of The Aberdonian”  - Sleepytown SLPYCD 008

How lovely to hear The Gaugers once again.  The music of this trio, comprising Peter Hall, Tom Spiers, and Arthur Watson, highlighted many visits I made to Aberdeen folk club and festival in years past.  They chose some of the best Scottish songs I’ve ever heard, and sang in honest, unvarnished accents that suited the material to a ‘T’.  Instrumentally they were somewhat meagre by the standard of many modern bands but their basic line-up of concertina, fiddle and whistle, with occasional dulcimer and bodhrán, used with the skill and taste possessed by these three were enough for any tune or backing.  Listen to ‘Bonny Udny’ on  ‘No More Forever’.  No singer could wish for better backing than that given there to Tam Spiers.  And there’s another point about The Gaugers.  They are all excellent singers, each with a different tone and attack but capable of fittingly joining in chorus.  Between them they handle ballads, bothy songs, and lyric pieces, giving full due to the text and emotion of each.  An exemplary band, or ‘group’ as they were called in those days.  They didn’t get south very often but I had them at the Nottingham Traditional Music Club once.  What a night that was!

Beware Of The Aberdonian’ first came out on Topic Records in 1976.  Sleepytown have included the original sleeve notes by Duncan MacLennan (another name from the past for me.  How are you Duncan?)  a wise decision, they are full and informative as sleeve notes should be.  The album is loaded with classic songs like ‘Monymusk Lads’ drilled out in vigorous style by Arthur Watson.  Tom Spiers sensitivity brings the best out of the lovely ‘Bogie’s Bonny Belle’, one of the best songs of any kind, anywhere.  Peter Hall’s thoughtful storytelling style of singing suits ‘The Cruel Brother’ well, but he shows how he can deal with humorous material in ‘The Minister’s Sheep’, a song version of a widely-spread cante-fable.  I must mention Arthur’s ‘Scranky Black Farmer’ also.  It’s not heard too often, but what a song.  And Arthur sings it just right.

 This is a wonderful re-issue.  The playing time is rather short by today’s standards, but full compliments to Sleepytown fort bringing it to us.

 Full compliments again for the second Gaugers album, ‘No More Forever’.  It is intended as a salute to the Gaugers contribution to traditional music, and as a tribute to the late Peter Hall who died in 1996.  I join in the salute and the tribute to Peter, a fine man whose company I enjoyed on many happy occasions.  The material here is gathered from live performances and rehearsal sessions, with the addition of two tracks recorded specially for the album.  All the things I have said before apply just as aptly to the songs and tunes here, I need add no more.  A few titles perhaps; ‘Mulnabeeny’, Mains O’ Culsh’, ‘The Merchants Son’, others in the same vein.  We need more Gaugers, English, Welsh and Irish as well as Scottish.  They did their stuff with dedication, affection, expertise, and enjoyment.  Yes, we do need more Gaugers.

Roy Harris

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This album was reviewed in Issue 45 of The Living Tradition magazine.