Mick West,
A Poor Man's Labour
(Claytara, 2004)

The title of Mick West's third CD A Poor Man's Labour comes from an old Scottish song, which is listed as the 12th song of the album.

The songs, once one makes it through the Scottish dialect, are ballads that narrate a poor man's lot from his roaming days to his less free days of marriage. These traditional songs show that whatever the depth of our sorrows, loss of love, tragedy or lost friends, that somehow love and grace touch the poor man's life. "T'was a for our rightfu' King" and "Prody dogs and papes" are historical and wistful as only songs about lost causes can be, and witty with rhyming word-play. The pecadillos and flaws of rascals are memorized and the likes of "Rantin Rovin Robin," sung to the tune of "Daintie Davie" and written by Robert Burns, are accepted in communal memory. "In Good Friends and Companions," a lively dancing song about the uncertainty of separation, is a good example of how both the joys and sorrows of life are celebrated, no matter how painful the future might be.

Mick West's singing is wonderfully traditional and authentic with its trills, bends and grace notes all in the right place. He doesn't oversing, and his enunciation helps those Americans like myself who don't understand the Scots dialect. Frank McLaughlin's accompaniment on the Scottish smallpipes, Stevie Lawrence's hurdy-gurdy and Fraser Fifield's low whistle definitely bring the Scottish touch.

Those who like traditional songs of England, Scotland and Ireland will like this album. It's highly recommended, although I missed hearing the women's side of things. Perhaps the additional vocals of Karine Polwart on "Wild Rover" hints at an upcoming "Poor Woman's Labour." One can only hope.

- Rambles
written by Carole McDonnell
published 5 March 2005