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GAVIN PATERSON - The Clancy/Makem Songbook

GAVIN PATERSON - The Clancy/Makem Songbook
R2F Records R2F10031

Every so often an album comes up from behind, takes me totally by surprise and totally ambushes me. And this is one such.

I confess that Gavin Paterson was a new name to me, and on reading his very helpful and well-written C.V. that accompanied the review copy of his CD, I initially held out no real hope for it.

I am not sure why. Could it be the fact he told us that he had been a police officer for 30 years? I hope that did not affect my thinking, as he would not be the first policeman who made a career in Folk...Dave Burland and Ian Green are two names to spring to mind. But that said, it is not the customary route to Folk success: somehow there has always been an anti-Establishment quality to Folk. And what could be more Establishment than the men in blue who are paid to protect the Establishment against an uprising of the People.

But, no doubt, these are problems in my own head. Disregard my silly prejudices: I may not hack it as a philosopher, but I am immensely confident of my abilities as a CD reviewer. And I know a fine album when it comes my way: and this is one such.

Gavin gives us 64 minutes and 14 numbers from the Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem songbook. Good value that. Some 50% more content than one normally receives in a CD. But it is only good value of course if the artiste delivers: and here Mr Paterson delivers bigtime. True, the choice of songs is a little eccentric, and there is one that stands out as a little perverse. But more of that later.

It is a triumph of a one man recording, in the true traditions of early Stevie Wonder. He has achieved a mini-masterpiece here by overdubbing vocal harmonies and a multi instrumental input. And he has not been afraid to turn Clancy Brothers convention on its head, and there is nothing remotely sacrilegious or unsuccessful about that. Indeed this album is a hymn of praise to the memory of CBTM, who he clearly loves.

The CD starts with a zydeco version of the Barnyards O’ Delgaty, which features such convincing accordion from Gavin that I swear I thought I was listening to the late Rockin’ Dopsie...!! Then we move to a more conventional reading of Wild Mountain Thyme, which Gavin reminds us was sang so movingly by the assembled mourners as they lowered Liam into his grave in 2009. (That moment used to be on YouTube, and bring me to tears: please check out if it is still online.) And Gavin was one of those singers that day: he tells us he was the only Scottish musician there at the graveside. (What an indictment that is, of the fickleness of some of Liam’s apparent bosom pals in Britain.)

Many of the stellar CBTM songs are here. But there are the occasional odd choices. Show Me The Way To Go Home may indeed have been recorded by them, but seems out of place here. The Butcher Boy he dedicates to Tommy Makem, but golly, how I longed for him to sing Four Green Fields as his Tommy tribute.

Did he think it too much of a hot potato? I doubt it, because Gavin clearly is unafraid of raising eyebrows. I note these comments from his excellent liner booklet on track 6, The Scottish Breakaway: “Sung very deliberately to the tune of The Sash with the Bodhran taking the place of the dreaded Lambeg. For all in the Yes movement and to my lovely daughter Heather who will see a Scottish Republic in her lifetime, even if I don’t see it in mine”.

Oh golly, Mr Paterson. Has it not occurred to you that “the dreaded Lambeg” is not confined and exclusive to The Six Counties? It will be in your wonderful future Republic too, and possibly beating louder than ever, unless you show considerably more magnanimity. We should be careful what we wish for.

The best cut on the album? That’s easy. The Orchard is from the pen of Nova Scotia based Kevin Evans, who also mastered this album. A sublime song about Dungarvan in Co Waterford, and with a piano-led delivery from Gavin to match. That track alone is worth the album’s purchase price.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 117 of The Living Tradition magazine.