Matt McGinn,
The Best of Matt McGinn, Vol. 2
(Greentrax, 2003)

This CD is subtitled "The RCA International Years" and is one of the best-value albums on offer this year with 25 excellent tracks. The majority were written by Matt McGinn and have their genesis in the heydays of folk in the 1960s and '70s.

Here you will find great humour mixed expertly with the most sad and emotional of contemporary folk.

It opens with a comic "Take Me Back to the Jungle" from the viewpoint of a monkey in the zoo and ends with one of the most moving songs to come out of Scotland called "Ibrox Disaster," concerning deaths at a football match. In between these, McGinn will make you laugh, cry, sing along and think.

"Tony Capaldi" is a track about an Italian ice cream seller in Glasgow. "Cead Mile Failte" is a sort of Scots-Irish love song in an almost march time.

Some of these tracks defy description and must be heard to be believed. "The Wurrum and the Sparra" is one such title. Say it out loud to get an idea of the subject matter.

In between the humorous songs you get gems like "The Little Carpenter" that, while sounding like a children's song, is in fact a very intelligently written song on Christian living. That is one of McGinn's great talents -- to lull you into a sense of silliness and then hit you with real life and make you think.

Another song on the album that gives much food for thought is "Rich Man's Paradise," which has the tag line of "poor man's hell" as he compares the details of modern life and how to one they can be heaven, to another, hell. He gives us a lovely piece of social history on "The Man They Could Not Hang." At just over five minutes it is a classic short story.

The CD is almost impossible to categorise because it combines so many styles. Just as you come out of a rollicking sing-along tune, you are pulled up with a beautiful, thoughtful song like "Troubled Waters of My Soul."

The 25 tracks here were originally released on two albums. Here you have a chance on one CD to experience folk music as it was best written and performed a few decades ago. The funny songs can still make you laugh and unless you have a heart of stone, the others will make you think and maybe cry.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 17 January 2004