Peter McCune,
Memories Embrace
(independent, 2005)

Peter McCune classes himself as a singer/song collector. Starting out supporting Andy Irvine in 1985 he has since traveled extensively, building his reputation and repertoire.

He opens this collection with a beautiful version of a song by Eamon Friel called "Farewell Mayo." His soft, gentle and very warm voice is eminently suited to the song and I particularly liked the arrangement with a wonderful musical burst between verses. The sentiments of the song, giving the "Eden" of the countryside to children of the city, are universal.

McCune is a mean instrumentalist as well as a singer and he demonstrates this to great effect on the second track, combining "The Cartwheel" and "Cooleys." "Innishvaddys Annie" is combined with "Dark Island," again to great effect. I love an album like this. It takes well-known tunes, it offers new arrangements of existing songs and then it slams you with lesser-known songs like this one. I loved the song and the delivery.

The button melodeon is a neglected instrument outside Scotland, but if enough radios take up this track, Peter could revive it. He is not afraid to tackle the hackneyed songs of the folk canon and make them his own, as he succeeds in doing with that old piece "Slieve Gallon Braes."

Instrumental tracks are always very hard for a non-playing reviewer like me to assess. As it happens, I review them simply as a listener, ignorant of the styles or techniques, and on this album I was mesmerized by the simple but effective playing. I'll display my ignorance now. I was aware of "Merrily Danced the Quaker" but never knew his wife danced, too, as in "Merrily Danced the Quaker's Wife." McCune had them both up and dancing with ease.

"Bonnywood Green" is probably not too familiar. Not many singers have attempted it in recent times but it is a classic song that deserves wider attention. It is one of those wonderful story songs of war and love and loss. McCune delivers it with heart.

As well as collecting, Peter does turn his hand to writing. On "The Clock of Life" he gives us his heartfelt rendition of a song he started writing two decades ago. It is a bittersweet song of life and loss inspired by the loss of his sister to cancer. It is a beautifully sad song that will give inspiration to anyone suffering early loss. It should be played loud and often on our radio stations but sadly there does not seem to be the imagination to give airplay to new music like this.

Therefore, you have a mission to seek it out, play it, enjoy the songs and tell others about this and the other hidden treasures of music.

by Nicky Rossiter
6 May 2006

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