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Private Label ADMC001CD

This CD arrived for review with no supporting information – which is actually quite appropriate, since its plain-spoken nature enables the music to speak entirely for itself. It’s a straightforward voice-with-guitar-accompaniment record for the most part, on which Adam (son of the peerless singer Gordeanna McCulloch) gently enchants his listeners with just minimal resources. In that respect, I was struck by the kinship between Adam’s debut CD and that of Ewan McLennan (Rags And Robes), which similarly captivated me on its appearance last year. There are other distinct similarities between the two debut recordings: Adam too is blessed with a very fine singing voice, which brings a depth of knowledge and understanding of his chosen material that’s rare in any young artist making his first recording, while his guitar playing is simply but effectively judged, highly articulate (reflecting his vocal delivery) and yet sensibly unobtrusive.

The material Adam’s chosen to showcase on this CD is almost entirely traditional, and predominantly of Scottish origin, and he turns in suitably persuasive and accessible versions of some very well-known songs (The Overgate, The Calton Weaver, As I Roved Out, Erin-Go-Bragh etc) which, while not springing any surprises or yielding any radical insights, do the job very nicely. Best of the bunch are probably a secure and well-focused take on Child 14 (The Bonnie Banks Of Airdrie), the little-known Burns song The Rowin’t In Her Apron and The Poachers (the version of Van Diemen’s Land contained in Ord’s collection). I was rather taken aback at first with the opening track – it was a bit of a shock to the system hearing Sally Wheatley sung in a Scottish accent! – but this “jaunty wee song from the singing of the Dubliners” (Adam’s description not mine, I hasten to add!) comes across just fine here; I also rather liked Adam’s forthright take on Hard Times, which also features backing vocals from Paul McKenna and some attractive supporting fiddle playing from Ruairidh MacMillan (Ruairidh appears on a couple of other tracks too, and there are some even more occasional contributions from John Weatherby on banjo and Kris Koren on mandolin, scattered judiciously across the CD).

I’ve deliberately saved what’s arguably the disc’s best track till last for mentioning: the title track, which is the one and only self-penned song on the album, judging by the high quality of which I hope this is a direction which Adam is destined to increasingly pursue in the future.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 89 of The Living Tradition magazine.