John Munro,
Plying My Trade
(Greentrax, 2007)

Here is a man I have reviewed a number of times in various guises: backing Eric Bogle, writing "The Eureka Suite" and as a member of Colcannon. Oh yes, and also as a live performer in a pub in south Wexford with Bogle. It is a joy to now have an album by the man himself to enjoy.

The Glaswegian "exile" to Australia opens with his wonderful tribute to the adopted home called "Spirit of the Land," which was part of "The Eureka Suite." He follows this with one of his best compositions and renditions; "The Ballad of Charles Devenport" is a beautiful biography set to sweet music and has a barb in the tail to draw your tears.

I suppose "Journeyman" is a sort of title track to an album of this name. Co-written with Pete Titchener, it recalls a time of apprentices and journeymen when people learned their trade at the feet and hands of experts rather than from books, courses and degrees. "The Border" is a tale of longing for a place that afflicts anyone who does not live where they were born.

An unusual subject for a song is "Sisters," taking on as it does the tale of conjoined twins. "Thunder On" reminds us of the need to write and perform songs that question the status quo.

The album is a heady mixture of personal and more universal songs, but all arrest our attention -- up to and including No. 12 as Munro gives his rendition of "Wild Mountain Thyme." I hope he will forgive me for mentioning Kat Kraus for her oh-so distinctive harmony vocals.

This is a great addition to the Scottish, Australian and, indeed, world canon of good folk music.

review by
Nicky Rossiter

25 August 2007

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