various artists,
The Floors o' the Forest
(Greentrax, 2013)

Dick Gaughan opens The Floors o' the Forest with the title track, which is probably more familiar to many people in being referenced in another song of another war.

As so often happens on the Greentrax label, we find old poetry set to music producing hauntingly realistic tales of past events. Such is the case on "Ettrick," a poem by Lady Jean Scott set to music and sung by Archie Fisher and Garnet Rogers.

Celticburn opens "Flodden's Green Loaning" with a lovely melodic whistling intro and delivers another outstanding song. Similarly, Steve McDonald brings that sad period to life on "Flodden Field," a ballad with a modern feel about a fight half a millennium ago. The same title confusingly appears on track 7, but this one by The Owl Service and Alison O'Donnell is a tale taken from a Childe ballad, and it gives the English side of the story.

Who can resist a children's choir, and especially a Scottish one singing "The Bonnie Banner Blue"? Not me, this is a wonderful track to ironically lift your spirits on a recollection of savage death and destruction. "Auld Selkirk" is another poignant story song from Gary Cleghorn interpreting a traditional song to great effect. Scocha, a duo, bring us an almost Gregorian Chant rendition on "The Wail of Flodden."

The album closes with an instrumental version of the title track. But it does not end there. On this exceptional release you get a free CD of poems and prose about the battle. This is a fascinating collection of materials that will raise goosebumps as you hear recitations every bit as powerful as the singing on the main CD.

But, as they say, that's not all. The insert of this album is a work of art, music and history in itself, including the lyrics of many of the songs. It could be released as a short book in itself.

music review by
Nicky Rossiter

31 August 2013

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