Jock Tamson's Bairns,
May You Never Lack a Scone
(Greentrax, 2001)

The percussion which launches "Gude Claret/Wee Hieland Laddie," the first track on May You Never Lack a Scone by Jock Tamson's Bairns, makes sure you're sitting up and taking notice whenever this CD plays. Not that you require much motivation -- this reformed band from Edinburgh, Scotland, easily captures your attention with its lively songs and tunes.

The Bairns were an underground force of music in the 1980s, touring only in Scotland and recording relatively little before disbanding to pursue other projects. Fortunately for those of us who weren't hanging around Scotland in those days, the band came back together in 1996, and in 2001 they released a new recording. Yay!

The band is Norman Chalmers (concertinas, whistles, melodeon, mouthorgan, percussion), Ian Hardie (fiddle, backing vocals), Rod Paterson (guitar, vocals, trump a.k.a. jaw harp), Derek Hoy (fiddle) and John Croall (bodhran, whistles, vocals). They obviously work well together; this traditional album flows with practiced ease, with a few not-so-traditional quirks here and there to be sure you're really listening. (For instance, a medley of traditional Highland jigs begins and ends with a few riffs I swore borrowed a bit from the "Pink Panther" theme, and sure enough, the band tosses a nod to Henry Mancini in the credits for that track.)

The songs are performed in the distinctive Scots-English language which Americans can usually comprehend with a little effort. It's always a joy to hear these old songs sung well, and there's no worries in this production on that account. The band's chops on instrumental tracks are equally strong, and the bandmates trade the spotlight among them, giving each other ample time to shine on their instruments of choice.

Anyone who loves Scottish tunes and ballads should check this out. Jock Tamson's Bairns has been awa' too long, but it's great to have them back to meet a new generation of fans!!

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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