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NORMAN BUCHAN - 101 Scottish Songs

NORMAN BUCHAN - 101 Scottish Songs
Collins ISBN: 9780008136611

The importance of the first People’s Festival Ceilidh in Edinburgh, in 1951, can hardly be overstated. It was compered and largely organised by the inimitable Hamish Henderson and recorded by Alan Lomax. In the audience, along with Norman Buchan, were individuals who were, or who became, movers and shakers in the early folksong revival including poet and songwriter, Maurice Blythman (aka Thurso Berwick) and Ewan MacColl. Here the ‘underground of song’ was brought into the light. For Norman Buchan, the whole experience was profound. Hearing Jessie Murray sing Skippin Barfit Through The Heather was both a revelation and an inspiration and it set him firmly on the folksong path as an enthusiast and educator.

101 Scottish Songs, first published in 1962, shines out as a testament to the democratic muse. This comprehensive collection consists of the words and music of songs old and new, drawn from oral and printed sources. These sources are fully acknowledged, including the particularly valuable inputs from Hamish Henderson.

We have the dark, dismal and dramatic The Twa Corbies married to a Breton tune, Al Alarc’h (The Swan) by Thurso Berwick. It gave this fine song a new lease of life. New songs included John Watt’s My Pittenweem Jo, Ewan MacColl’s Jamie Foyers and Hamish Henderson’s The Highland Division’s Farewell To Sicily. Songs from the repertoire of Lucy Stewart (I Am A Miller Tae My Trade), Jeannie Robertson (Twa Recruitin Sergeants) and Isobel Hendry (The Collier Laddie) are all part of this quality selection.

The handsome production is inexpensive, compact and superbly bound for hard usage. It demonstrates the old saw: “guid gear comes in sma bulk”. Known fondly as the Wee Red Book, this has been republished to mark the 50th anniversary of The Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland (TMSA) with the full co-operation and support of the publishers and, not least, the Buchan family. Well done to you all.

Geordie McIntyre

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This album was reviewed in Issue 114 of The Living Tradition magazine.