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JIM MALCOLM - Sparkling Flash

JIM MALCOLM - Sparkling Flash
Beltane Records  BELCD107

On the day I write this, Willy and Kate are getting wed at Westminster Abbey and Jim Malcolm appears at The Ram Club in Surrey. I know in which audience I’d rather be. Jim has one of Scotland’s finest folk voices and is too rarely spotted by southrons. I haven’t seen him since his Old Blind Dog days.

Many of the most interesting songs on his ninth solo album are to do with parting. Burns wrote Farewell To The Bonny Banks Of Ayr when he thought he was bound for the West Indies, and Jim gives it a delicious rumba twist. A spirited Bonny Ship The Diamond, with Scooter Muse on banjo, sees the whalers part from their weeping womenfolk on the Peterhead quay.  The rower in Loch Tay Boat Song has been dumped by his lovely nighean ruadh (red-haired girl). Death is the biggest parting. Suzi Wollenberg is Jim’s remembrance of a lady at the heart of the Delaware folk scene met during touring days with OBD.  Best of all is the title track, and you’ll be relieved to hear it’s not an endorsement of a well-known household cleaning product.  Jim wrote it about the funeral of Jim Reid, his favourite singer. At the gathering afterwards there was thunder and lightning – a sparkling flash and a glorious roar.

Other songs include Robert Tannahill’s Fly We Tae Some Desert Isle (with Jim’s wife Susie on lead vocals);  two more by Burns;  Hal O The Wind, a setting of a poem by William Soutar about The Battle of the Clans in Perth; and, as a dubious bonus track, Song For St Johnstone in praise of Perth’s football team.

Jim’s singing has a relaxed serenity and an ocasional jazz inflection which increasingly puts me in mind of Rod Paterson.  I’d forgotten what a fine harmonica player he is. His DADGAD-tuned guitar is supplemented by Dave Watts on keyboards. His OBD pals feature on Suzi Wollenberg.  This is a comfortable, rooted album. Jim isn’t pushing at his boundaries here, but he’s delivered an assured and enjoyable set of songs.

Tony Hendry

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