Alison McMorland & Geordie McIntyre,
White Wings
(Greentrax, 2007)

Two great voices join in harmony on this CD to bring us 14 gems of Scottish music.

Opening with the title track, Alison McMorland and Geordie McIntyre tell us an emigrant-returning tale that is visual as well as musical. Alison takes pride of place on the plaintive traditional song "The Rocks of Gibraltar," telling a familiar tale of love and loss.

One of my favourite tracks turns out to record a tale not often told of a white slave trade operating out of Aberdeen in the 18th century. The traditional song, "The Virginia Maid," is a sad tale that will draw a tear from the careful listener. It is also a social document worth paying attention to as it recounts the maid's duties.

"The Shore Heid Boat" tells us the very real tale of the sailor's life in the recent past rather than in the long-ago days of sail. Night-visiting songs are a strong element in folk and few can better "Here's a Health to All True Lovers." The song is thought to be an ancestor of the great "Lover's Ghost."

One of the better-known tracks is "John Barleycorn," but this duo gives us a new interpretation that has a beautiful delivery with dialect words abounding. "The Shira Dam" is another wonderful unaccompanied piece. This is poetic history telling the tale of working on a dam in Argyll in the 1950s, showing that Ewan McColl was not the only one writing great songs about the working people. It tells of the hard life, unions but also humour. This is social history in rhyme.

From working life, the album moves seamlessly to a song in praise of nature on "Last Farewell to the Bens." "Our Ship is Ready" is another song of emigration from the Irish canon and it is beautifully delivered without accompaniment. After emigration they move on to that other travel song -- transportation -- on "My Last Farewell Tae Stirling."

This collection of excellent songs beautifully sung is more than simply a music album. It is a social history telling various stories that affected lives not only in far away lands or centuries but within living memory and as such it deserves to be sought out, played and, most importantly, listened to closely.

review by
Nicky Rossiter

15 September 2007

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