Gleanings Review: Gavin Atkin (Folk London)

WildGoose Studios  WGS426CD

Hector Gilchrist is a fine, silver toned singer with excellent phrasing; likewise the studio team of fiddler Carol Anderson (fiddle), Moira Craig (harmonies and choruses), Johnny Dyer (guitar, piano and accordion), Vicki Swan (double bass, flute and nyckelharpa) and Bob Wood (guitar) is cracking good and the arrangements are to die for.

Hector has made many albums in the past (five for Wild Goose), so apart from being beautifully made, what’s this one about?

Gleanings is a collection of songs Hector felt he somehow missed along the way (the ‘gleanings’ of the title), together with a few old favourites here given new settings and new performances. As his notes say, ‘there’s always another good song’, and it’s true though sometimes you have to look hard for them.

The album is also roughly half traditional and historic Scots songs, and about half modern songs from all sorts of sources. In a way, it’s almost two different albums in one, with recognisably different approaches to singing, with the more recent songs it often seems as if he’s crooning to the second row in a folk club, while the older and more Scottish songs get a more gutsy treatment.
As with the instruments and arrangements, no doubt these differences will lend variety that many listeners will appreciate.

Among the modern songs my favourites are Baltic Street, Carole Prior’s setting of the Violet Jacob poem about the challenges for couples getting together from different social backgrounds, and Italian Angelo Brandaurdie’s The Stag, with its striking and original angle on hunting.
Among the older songs, I loved the Trooper and the Maid (Carol Anderson’s playing is magnificent) and My Lagan Love   in this performance I feel Hector has taken on a well known song and nevertheless made it very much his own, as befits such a seasoned and confident singer.

Gavin Atkin