Brian McNeill & Friends,
The Falkirk Music Pot
(Greentrax, 2015)

Scotland wins again in its designation of creative places that help foster and nurture its unique music and traditions. Falkirk is the creative place showcased on this excellent double CD of 22 tracks fronted by Brian McNeill, a writer of high esteem who has gathered a wonderful band of performers on the project.

The opening track, "The Lads o' the Fair," is from McNeill's pen and sets the scene with a beautiful pen picture of the history of Falkirk. The majestic "The Kelpies Suite" follows, showing that a school orchestra has a valid place in the performance of traditional music.

The new diversity of so many towns and cities is brought to life with the wonderful harmony singing of the pupils of Bandawe Girls Secondary School on a song written and fronted by Mercy Nyirongo. To bolster the diversity, track 4 features that stalwart music tradition of the brass band represented by Bo'ness & Carriden Band on a tune called "Stirling Brig."

Being Scotland, of course, we cannot neglect the bagpipes. "The Terror Time" provides an excellent example.

"The Boys That Broke the Ground" recalls the essential but often reviled navvies who built most of the industrial world. From that era the songs move to modern times and connections between Scotland and southern Africa on "Tae Feed a Hungry Child".

Our confidence in the future of traditional music is bolstered on track 2 of the second CD as The Falkirk Youth Trad Band entertains us with "The Great Wheel."

Even with a great double CD, there is always a truly stand-out song; on this offering one cannot fault "The Men of Twenty Three," a poignant tale of a coal-mining disaster in 1923. Similarly, "The Carron River" reminds us of the essential need of good folk songs to tell us of our history wherever we may live.

Where would a Scottish album be without Robbie Burns? The brass band arrangement of "My Love is Like a Red Red Rose" will bring a tear to many an eye, Scottish or not.

With "The Best o' the Barley" we get McNeill at his humorous and singing best, recalling an uncle who emigrated to America.

All in all, this album is a tribute to Falkirk, Scotland, Greentrax and folk music in all its diversity and essential qualities. As ever there is a beautifully produced booklet with lyrics, credits and history -- lavishly illustrated.

music review by
Nicky Rossiter

7 November 2015

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new