This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
first solo album, she has chosen to diverge
BROADCASTER from the image of the traditional Gaelic singer
Primary Transmission
and instead has released a much more worldly
album. Her voice is more textured and mature,
Red Grape RGLAEP01
while her original songs are expressive and
lyrically beautiful. And although she has
Oldies talking have often spiced up rap, or-
recorded the album predominantly in English,
semi-rap, or sampling. Remember the ‘Are You
she has not left her Gaelic roots behind.
Listening’ refrain from Robb Johnson’s “This is
The album begins with When the Sunny Sky
the UK Talking’, or that famous traditional singer
has Gone which sets the tone for the rest
- I’ve forgotten which one it was - who featured
of the album. The song has a pared down
on a recent hit: “And he went unto the wars to
arrangement, with just MacKenzie’s vocals and
be slain.”
guitar, joined minimally by piano. The brief
song is filled with raw emotion and harmonies
Well here we have the folk influence taken to its
that almost don’t work, but MacKenzie pulls
logical rap conclusion. Broadcaster (whoever
them through, creating a song that is nearly
he or they are – Google just confuses the issue)
impossible not to like.
has moved on from that hoary old chestnut of
modern jigsaw music ‘This is a Journey into song from a previous century and sing it in
Sound’, which we all know, whether willingly or this one without trying to drag it ‘kicking and
unwillingly, to a Journey into the BBC Sound screaming’ into the next; someone who has
Archives, specifically those of Charles Parker’s deep understanding and love of his material,
Radio Ballads. So there’s lot of Ewen MaColl and lets those qualities show through in
snippets. Whether folk’s arch-traditionalist performance. In short, someone like Jeff Davis.
would have approved is a difficult conundrum.
Peggy Seeger, also featured, would, I suspect, The album opens with a cracking version of
be all in favour of the use of a modern media River Driving, itself driven along by Davis’
manifestation, and Calum MacColl is heavily strongarm fiddling, which shows up again on
involved. So we have songs - are they songs? a delightful instrumental called Indian Whoop,
Toe-tapping pop, anyway - which recreates alongside Howie Bursen’s nimbly energetic
the heroisim of the man who inspired the first banjo picking. I don’t know where the ‘Indian’
radio ballad, engine driver John Axon. And in bit comes from. Does it mean those we now
the other five tracks, snippets from Song of A call ‘Native Americans’? I’ve never heard any
Road, Travelling People, and The Big Hewer, of their music that resembles this. Not that
are cut together into a series of themes, from it matters - this track would make anybody
the pastoral celebration of ‘England’, to the whoop. It even brings a twitch from my dance-
violence of ‘The Wild Ones’. The revival singers resistant toes. I like it,
The next few songs have similarly minimal
are mixed with the original interviewees and
arrangements with a few containing fuller
those electronic beats which are all you can I also like the next song, Doney Gal, long one
sounds with additional instruments and more
usually hear from the Mini playing too loud of my favourite cowboy songs. Two other
complicated arrangements, including the
dance music at the traffic lights. Four of the cowboy favourites are here too, namely Wild
harmonies that few singers could pull off so
tracks are reprised as ‘radio editions’, though Bill Jones, and the fabulous Old Paint, the
successfully. They are reminiscent of Jane
they sound exactly the same to me. cause of much speculation from me on first
Siberry’s on her album Hush. A particular
hearing years ago, with puzzling phrases like
highlight of the album is the song At the
Apparently the Living Trad office was being ‘feed in the coulee, water in the draw’ and
Bottom of the Sea. Once again, in the hands
sent barmy by this before it went out for ‘to throw the Houlihan’. Davis reports in the
of another arranger this song could have
review. Some will like it, some hate it. I think booklet notes ‘I still find Old Paint a little eerie’. I
become a pop anthem, but MacKenzie and her
it’s brilliant. Modern music for us old crusties. can understand that. He sings it beautifully to a
collaborator Calum Malcolm manage to avoid
If you’ve got hoodies in your street, open the guitar backing of equal beauty.
this pitfall, instead creating a song of love and
windows and play this loud. It’ll work far better
devotion. The title track, Elevate, is a folky
than those alarms only young people can hear, This review would be pages long if I were to
sounding song filled with clever lyrics, quirky
and you can dance to it as well. This is the most spell out my reasons for liking every track on
turns of phrase, haunting chorus vocals and
innovative approach to folk since Jumpleads the album, let it suffice that I DO like every
intriguing pauses.
and the Rogue Folk movement. track, but if I had to pick favourites they would
include Felix the Soldier, Beulah Land, and
Several Gaelic songs are included, two by
Bob Harragan Adieu My Lovely Nancy (If you think The
Eilidh MacKenzie, Fiona’s sister, and one by
Copper Family wrote the book on this just listen
poet Sorely MacLean. These songs have a
to Davis’ Arkansas version with Brian Peters on
more traditional feel, but never break with
concertina). The Cumberland & the Merrimac
the overall mood that the album creates. An
Some Fabulous Yonder
deserves special mention too. Whether
Roghainn (The Choice) is a Sorely MacLean
singing, with backing or without, or playing
poem about regrets over lost love, while
Private Release
banjo, guitar, fiddle, or mandocello, Jeff Davis’
Eilidh MacKenzie’s pieces are short and
work oozes class and commitment. It’s good
expressive, regardless of the language of their
The title ‘Some Fabulous Yonder’ is a quote
to know that the folk revival still has people who
composition. The arrangements of the first two
from the American biblical scholar Robert Funk,
can produce records of this calibre.
Gaelic songs remain simple, telling their stories
founder of the ‘Jesus Seminar’ and a somewhat through MacKenzie’s vibrant, versatile voice.
controversial figure. No arguments from me
Roy Harris
The third, Hi o Hè, written by Eilidh MacKenzie,
about the contents of the album though. It has a more electronic arrangement, making it
contains all the things I hope for when I press somewhat of a standout.
the play button on something new. What are
MacKenzie has created an elegant album
containing beautifully written songs and
Well, a good choice of songs old or new is Linn Records AKD307 sensitive, soulful arrangements. Her voice
always welcome, and we have that here. I ranges from gentle and tender to full and
like them to be sung by someone who lets the Fiona MacKenzie has a reputation as a Gaelic forceful, while her lyrics are always thought
material speak for itself but who is individual singer from the Isle of Lewis, particularly with provoking and insightful. She also has a
enough to impart freshness to familiar pieces her sisters as a member of MacKenzie known particularly ingenious turn of phrase, writing
without distortion; someone who can take a for their pure, sweet harmonies. But on her lyrics that invoke emotions in the listener.
The Living Tradition - Page  Sponsored by BIrnam CD
Issue80.indd 44 14/7/08 14:54:43
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