Tom Clelland
Whisteberry CD002

Whenever a new "artistes' cooperative" record label arrives on the scene, one automatically wishes it well in its struggle to find its feet in the hard commercial world out there. But when it provides the launch for a fairly substantial album like this one, then somehow one DOUBLY wishes it a fair wind.

Tom Clelland is clearly a talent. I regret to say that he was a totally new name to me. His gigs tend to be North of the Border and thus he does not get down to Lincolnshire where I reside. And I'd missed his debut album ‘Little Stories’. But if this second CD is anything to go by, then that was my loss.

But I have to declare an interest (of sorts). He won me over from the moment I read the liner notes (before actually playing the CD): he took his album title from a remark of the great Robert Frost. Now, I have been a Frost aficionado all my life, so I figure that anyone who revered that American giant just CANNOT be wanting in the "good taste" department.

And so it proved. This is a thoughtful, easy-on-the-ear album, where Clelland's warm, Eric Bogle-ish voice is splendidly supported by some classy musicians under the direction of multi-instrumentalist and producer, Davie Scott.

It is nice to find songs that rhyme, scan and MAKE SENSE. I am not sure
that any of them are assured of real longevity, but that said, they all provide decent stabs at achieving memorability when it comes to the first-time listener.

I particularly liked ‘The Wine Song’: his interesting liner notes quote Sir Walter Scott's famous paean of praise to the fruit of the noble grape. Trust me, this song does a better job than the ‘The Laird of Abbotsford’ ever could. It is the standout cut on the album. If only the makers of the recent smash-hit movie ‘Sideways’ could have heard the song before finishing film production! I'm sure they'd have snapped it up as the theme song.

If all the songs don't scale the heights, it is still fair to say that there is not a dud song on the album. But one other song also made a real impact. Indeed it is fair to say it quite moved me. I refer to his closing number ‘Slip Away’.

This shows he has sat at the feet of the John Prines and the Guy Clarks. But that said, it is not particularly derivative: and apart from its strong rhymes, its constant refrain "don't let it slip away" proves a bit of a masterstroke.

Why? Well, because it is so cleverly placed at the end of the album. And thus it works in the overt way (i.e. it's a strong song that leaves you wanting more), but it also works on the subconscious: one feels that one must not let this talent "slip away" either.

This East Lothian singer apparently waited until he was over 50 to record his first album. It would be a shame if his light was to quickly vanish after it took so long to start to burn.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 63 of The Living Tradition magazine.