Bruce Scott,
My Colleen by the Shore
(Veteran, 2005)

Bruce Scott was born in Everton, Liverpool, but his soul appears grounded in Ireland. His ancestry is like the genealogy for the "Ould Orange Flute," with Dublin Catholics and Derry Protestants in the family tree.

That Irish soul comes to the fore in this collection of 15 tracks combining the familiar with the less well known from the Irish traditional songbook, as well as new songs.

Opening with "Rocks of Bawn," he sets the scene with a song that has a long pedigree but seldom appears on recordings today. "The Tipperary Tinker" is a song he collected in Ireland, but is probably performed less often today for "political correctness" rather than any defect in the song or tune.

"Streams of Bunclody" brings us close to my home ground. We usually call it simply "Bunclody," and it is one of my favourite songs of Wexford. It is hard to better the old Emmet Spiceland version, but Scott, singing unaccompanied, does it. Like all great folk songs, its origins are lost to time and there are variants in every townland where unrequited love exists. Bruce also appears to have busked around Bunclody and this inspired him to write "Summer in Bunclody."

"The Herring" is a new, old song to me. It has a great charm and is very well performed here, again without accompaniment. A beautiful song from Scott's own pen is "Lowlands of Flanders," composed about the peace tower to commemorate the Irish fallen in the Great War.

Scott appears to be an avid collector of songs and another gem is "The Deck of the Baltimore." I had seen a version of the song printed in a book from 1948 called Songs of the Wexford Coast, but this is the first time I've heard it sung on record.

He comes more up to date with a song written for his wife, "My Liverpool Rose," adding another bloom to that Irish bouquet. He gives a beautiful rendition of "She Moved Through the Fair" before moving on to one of those humorous songs beloved of the ballad session, "Buck St John's Black Army." It is a close relative -- or maybe we should say part of the same hotel chain -- as "The Louse House in Kilkenny." He rounds off this wonderful album with the title track to the tune of "Dawning of the Day," which earned him the title of All Ireland Champion of newly composed ballads in English at the Fleadh Cheoil in 2004.

This album includes a marvelous insert with not just background notes on the songs but a well-written short biography of Scott.

by Nicky Rossiter
22 April 2006