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One of the best-loved and most respected characters of the South-west Scotland folk scene, Lionel, “man of Moffat” and spokesman for the Silent Majority, died suddenly of a heart attack in September 2010, I believe just as he was due to make a recording with his latest group Bring In The Spirit. Sad to say I never got the chance to meet Lionel, but by all accounts he was one of the kindest and most genuine of the “good guys”.

Lionel had, of course, made a notable contribution to Linn Records’ Complete Songs Of Robert Burns project, but he was such an impressively all-round singer, musician and composer that any collection properly representing and celebrating his talent must embrace so much more (while of course ensuring no exclusion of Burns!). So this disc of (mostly) recent studio recordings by Lionel might be said to constitute a kind of best-of collection in all but name (albeit at the same time a tip of his creative iceberg). It’s spearheaded by no fewer than eight of Lionel’s own compositions. Several of these feature backing from mates from Lionel’s days with Black Eyed Biddy, and from his Bring In The Spirit collaborators – Gregor Lowrey (accordion), Pete Clark (fiddle), Marc Duff (whistle) and Kirsten Easdale (vocals).

The disc contains many shining examples of Lionel’s versatility, including a vigorous pipe march Fraser’s Dream (written for his youngest son), a lovely slow air Jane Crossan Smith (written for his grandmother, and in complete contrast a masterly recitation (Common Craw); not to mention a wonderfully varied collection of songs that range from the joyful and affectionate come-all-ye Come Spend A While Wi’ Me (fast becoming a festival favourite), to The Earl O’ March’s Daughter (arguably his best-known song, which is often thought to be traditional - the ultimate compliment!) We also have Lionel’s stirring account of the dangerous job of cockling on the Solway Firth (The Cockling Song) and a brace of hilarious satirical numbers on the time-honoured subject of greed (Toodle Pip and the catchy waltz-time MPs’ Expenses Blues). The disc is then signed off with Lionel’s haunting rendition of Dave Cargen’s Green Hills O’ Annandale, followed by a Bring In The Spirit band recording of the Burns classic Willie Brew’d A Peck O’ Malt and a previously unreleased live recording from 2001 of Lionel with Kris Koren (as Black Eyed Biddy) of Sean O’Riada’s Women Of Ireland. This is definitely a disc to treasure.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 93 of The Living Tradition magazine.