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JIM MALCOM - Live In Perth

JIM MALCOM - Live In Perth
Beltane Records BELCD111

A review of a previous album in this magazine described Jim as “one of the finest singing voices in Scotland in any style” and really that nailed it, so this piece will reinforce Alan Murray’s opinion of some 15 years back! Growing up in Perth, the press release highlights his abilities as a songwriter but the Trad.Arr material still counts for a lot; one senses for him, the tradition remains a potent living thing. In whatever genre though, quality control is never an issue with Jim Malcolm and this set starts with a punchy Lads O’ The Fair - as good a lead-off track as you’ll find. There’s nothing like a live set to capture a singer’s essence, which this surely does, complementing his 2004 recording, Live At Glenfarg - long on my permanent playlist.

A worthy addition to his solo catalogue now numbering 13 releases, here is a troubadour of substance playing guitar and harmonica with exemplary precision. Relaxed and amongst friends on his own patch at the Goodlyburn Theatre, he hit a peak that night last August, forging a very personal communion. His expressive voice, whether complementing a filigree picked guitar on the bittersweet The First Cold Day or regaling us with tall tales, is warm and engaging. The amusing Robin Williamson cover, Pickpockets, doesn’t float my particular boat, but the droll merriment of Cleaning Out My Moat is clever cutting wordplay displaying Jim’s special flourish as a writer. Contrast this with the seduction-leading-to-contentedness theme of Reres Hill whose convincing delivery is proof that traditional song can draw you in and hold you without bells and whistles, and the mix is perfect.

With a hushed reverence in the theatre at times, the whoops and yells at the end tell you that this gently-paced set has hit its collective spot. Yes, you’d want to stand and cheer Jim Malcolm; a world away from his first job as front man, until 2007, with the attacking high energy Old Blind Dogs, this well-formed collection shows that he continues to punch well above his weight.

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 113 of The Living Tradition magazine.