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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Steele the Show (Songs from the Heart of Scotland)

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Steele the Show (Songs from the Heart of Scotland)
Greentrax CDTRAX358

Davy Steele – aaah.  Great voice, personality the size of Jupiter and massively missed by all who knew or even knew of him.  However, Davy is often overlooked as a songwriter. This “tribute” album sets out to address that glaring deficiency.   With, for example,  Andy M. Stewart, Dick Gaughan and Ian McCalman representing Davy’s peers and Siobhan Miller, Kate Rusby and Karine Polwart representing the next generation whom he inspired, this is a beautifully-balanced collection of  “songs that I know and songs that I don’t”. 

My highlights include Karine’s delicate take on Scotland Yet, Dick’s sensitive snarl on Last Trip Home – a stunning song about the end of the heavy horses that I find very hard to sing without choking up, and Siobhan’s stark and moving a capella version of Eyes Of A Child. That’s an unsettling song if ever there was one.  There’s also a lovely, touching version of Davy’s last known song Just One More Chorus (a phrase he was oft heard to bellow) led by Davy and Patsy’s son Jamie.  Jamie’s exceptional musical genes on both sides are obvious!

Davy’s outward persona was that of a larger-than-life, jokey, boisterous “bloke”.  However, this was simply the loveable external image of a man of great sensitivity, not to say tasteful sentimentality.  For that reason, Davy’s own singing contribution Long Hellos, Short Goodbyes is almost unbearable.  This beautiful song, bemoaning the times when he had to leave his beloved Patsy and clinging to the all-too-short “hellos”, brought a lump to my throat when Davy was alive.  Now, it’s all-out greetin’ and I feel no shame. 

There isn’t a dud track on this and your favourites will be different, but favourites you will have … many of them. My only miniscule grumble is that Davy’s song, Jimmy Waddell, that includes one of my all-time favourite lyrics, is missing.  The song tells of a young lad signing up for military service, full of bravado and testosterone, reassured in the happy thought that military life will be a doddle, as “… this is 1914, so what chance is there o’ war?” … Steele the Show Volume 2?

This CD is moving, inspired and an essential buy for anyone interested in one of the most brilliantly Scottish of songwriters.  Purple prose?  Believe it … just listen.

Alan Murray

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This album was reviewed in Issue 88 of The Living Tradition magazine.