The McCalmans,
Where the Sky Meets the Sea
(Greentrax, 2002)

The McCalmans have been singing beautiful Scottish ballads, old and new, for years and they have never sounded better than on this CD. They may not be superstars but they are better than that -- apart from the cash. They enjoy playing music they love in small village halls to people who have a passion for good tunes. Then there is the pint afterwards and moving on through glorious scenery of sea or mountain to the next venue.

From the rousing first track, "Women o' Dundee," this CD will raise your spirits. The subject matter may be sad but Sheena Wellington's song brings us a great piece of social history in a tale of how the women of the Scottish city made life possible for their families. The second track, by group member Ian McCalman, is a tourist board offer's dream. If Scotland Tourism wants an advert just add pictures to this lovely song. On radio it is a draw for a visit to that country already.

"Applecross Bay" is a lovely word picture. "Voice of My Island" brings a tear to the eye as we hear a raw tale of leaving with a lovely whistle and guitar backing. When the voices join in the chorus I dare you to avoid joining in. The names of the places are poetic in themselves.

Richard Thompson's "Galway to Graceland" is a fresh song sung here without backing. Having loved it as performed by Sean Keane and as a song in itself, I now have another "bite at the cherry" as a new discovery.

Social history again is evident in "Farm Auction" by Enoch Kent. It is poignant portrait of the death of a farm that can resonate from Scotland to Ireland, Canada or the Midwest of the USA. Listen to lines like "books in boxes, clothes in bags, bought for learning, bought for rags, everything must go," and know a deep truth of the way of life that's under threat.

We recall the genius of the poet Robbie Burns with songs like "Ae Fond Kiss." Written centuries ago it could be a song for any modern lovers. "The Last Leviathan" by Andy Barnes is another classic song. It captures the sound of the whale song that we hear on nature programs in the solo-unaccompanied voice.

In 15 tracks the McCalmans bring us history, love, fun, nature and a tribute to their native land. If you cannot visit Scotland, listen to this CD.

The CD contains an array of new songs that are inspirational as the mellow voices join in simple arrangements and backing. This is folk music in its natural environment. These are songs we all think we can sing but few can do it as well as the McCalmans. But don't let that stop you joining in and bellowing out the songs.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 8 March 2003