Joe McPartland,
Songs o' Bonnie Scotland
(Innisfree, 1997)

The cover tells us everything we need to know about this CD. It pictures an older gentleman, dressed in kilt, jacket, tam and red bow tie, his arms spread wide in song. The music within is precisely what you would expect him to be singing, Scottish songs done time and time again so that they have become "pop" standards, such as "Will Ye Go Lassie, Go," "Roamin' in the Gloamin'," "Amazing Grace," "Annie Laurie" and ten others.

McPartland's voice is a high Irish tenor, which seems a bit past its prime, although still pleasantly melodic. The dynamics all seem to be at the mezzo forte level, though McPartland thankfully pulls back on some of the slower ballads ("Annie Laurie" is particularly lovely). Those expecting roots music or authentic Scottish singing won't find it here: it's "blooming," not "bloomin'" heather on this CD, and there's only a suggestion of a Highland brogue in any of the songs.

McPartland would be right at home on The Lawrence Welk Show. This is definitely a CD for the (much) older listener, who might have experienced the voice and recordings of John McCormack or Harry Lauder -- McPartland lies between the two in terms of vocal quality. The musical arrangements, however, are dismal. Though the cover states, "with orchestral accompaniment," the "orchestra" sounds more like an accordion and drums, with everything else supplied by synthesizer. If this is not the actual case, McPartland should seek another recording engineer posthaste.

When Uma Thurman makes the square with her fingers in Pulp Fiction, it might well be this album she's referring to. Still, many people enjoy such music, as the liner quotes from Wisconsin Rotary Club officials and New Jersey Irish radio show hosts prove (though, to be fair, critic George Jellinek also praises McPartland). It's not my cup of tea, but if you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you will like.

[ by Chet Williamson ]
Rambles: 20 August 2001

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