Sheena Wellington,
Hamely Fare
(Greentrax, 2003)

This is a musical experience rather than a CD. The voice of Sheena Wellington is not heard, it is absorbed. She brings old music to life in a way that few others can. If you want traditional folk music, this is the foundation of your Scottish collection.

If you buy a CD for only one track it has to be Wellington singing "Whaur Dae Ye Li." It is perhaps the most recent track on the CD but it manages to combine thoughts on modern warfare with the ancient tradition. Karine Polwart wrote it about the slaughter of Bosnian Muslims in 1995. It has the resonance of "God on Our Side" and "Now That the Buffalo are Gone" of the 1970s folk era. I defy anyone to listen to Wellington deliver this song and not be moved.

There is great cross section of Robert Burns' material on the CD, starting with the moving love song "Ae Fond Kiss" performed with guitar, fiddle and whistle accompaniment.

Wellington's voice is great with music but she has no need of accompaniment. Her pure voice rendition of the well-known favourite "The Fair Flooer O Northumberland" is a joy to hear. Even allowing for the numerous dialect words, you can understand every syllable.

My first introduction to "Mountains of Pomeroy" was on a De Danaan album many years ago. It is a haunting air. On "Ballad," Sheena recalls that there once were lyrics for it but as she found them rather "twee," she set a poem by William Southar to the tune and produced this classic track. She performs a similar service on "Ye Banks and Braes." The fiddle and guitar accompaniment lift a beautiful song to even greater heights.

The notes tell us that Robert Burns composed "Now Westlin Winds" at the age of just 16 years. Listen to Wellington sing this amazing song and you will become aware of the genius of this Scottish legend. It combines love lyrics and a nature poem seamlessly. Wellington's sweet voice adds even more to the experience.

To demonstrate that she is not averse to a little lighthearted singing she gives us the lilting sound of "Granny's Warning," a simple and bouncy piece. She returns to the social history ballad with "Thomas Muir of Huntershill," a straight story-song recounting a person whose sacrifice gave us all a chance of achieving democratic rights. Adam NcNaughten wrote the song but he used the words recorded in the trial of Thomas Muir, which gives the song a greater depth.

The CD ends with a live recording of Burns' "A Man's a Man," recorded at the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 in the presence of the assembly members and Queen Elizabeth. Who knows, the monarch may even be heard joining in?

This will be a classic album of Scottish folk music. It has a great mix of songs and eras. It has the powerful voice of Sheena Wellington. It has an insert of lyrics, background and credits. It is a foundation for anyone who wants to collect folk music that matters.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 19 April 2003