Adam McNaughtan,
The Words That I Used to Know
(Greentrax, 2000)

Adam McNaughtan delivers funny lyrics, mostly a capella, with a Glaswegian accent and outlook on life.

This is a double CD, combining the songs from two previously released recordings, both no longer in print. Words, Words, Words and The Glasgow That I Used to Know combine to form The Words That I Used to Know, presented on two separate CDs in a single jewel case. Thus, these two CDs, sold at a single CD price, give you twice the songs for the buck. The best of Adam McNaughtan can be found here.

McNaughtan's performance style is direct, rhythmic and expressive. His strong Scottish accent comes through clearly, especially when he iterates such words as "ach," "aye" and "bloody Glasgow green." The guttural "ch" sound and rolled "r" add to the Scottish musicality of the songs. The lyrics express unquestionably Scottish sentiments, and give great insight into the Scottish mentality.

The first CD, The Glasgow That I Used to Know, intersperses McNaughtan originals with traditional tunes and lyrics. Some of the traditional classics represented include "A Wee Drappie O't," "Bonnie Wee Country Lass," "Mammie Songs" and "Haddie In the Pan." It's fun to hear familiar words and themes (probably to any culture) with a Scottish twist, as on "School Songs." McNaughtan's original songs include "The Transportation Ballad," "The Jeely Piece Song" and the often quoted "Old Annie Annie Brown," which laments the lack of neighborly concern in today's society. It appears that many of the songs on this album were recorded in performance, for you can frequently hear giggles and laughs in the background at particularly funny lines. A few of the tracks have accompanying guitar in the background, but the vast majority are a capella, solo voice.

Words, Words, Words concentrates more on contemporary Scottish songs, with many McNaughtan originals, a number of other more contemporary songs and several traditional offerings. The traditional tunes include "Chinese songs" and "The Haill Week o' the Fair," each presented with energy and humor. McNaughtan sings McGinn's "Rap Tap Tap" with rhythmic rolled "r"s adding vocal percussion to his own singing. "The Coming of the Wee Malkies," by Stephen Mulrine, is recited with great gusto. Alexander Rodger's "Robin Tamson's Smiddy," James Curran's "Fitba' Crazy" and R. Neill's "Airn John" (the tune of "John Anderson, My Jo") are also presented here. Familiar McNaughtan's songs include the beautiful "The Yellow on the Broom," the bitter and ironic "Blood Upon the Grass" and the hilarious "Oor Hamlet."

It's surprising how much variety can be presented, when only one voice is heard throughout the recording. McNaughtan accomplishes this feat by changing the timbre of his voice to suit the song, changing the tempo, and occasionally adding spoken lines to add variety. He has a large vocal range, which also adds depth to the recording.

This two-CD collection of songs gives a great overview of Scottish culture, both old and modern. The tunes and themes will sound familiar to many listeners, and will provide a treasure trove of material for those interested in Scottish song.

[ by Jo Morrison ]

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