Link to Living Tradition Homepage





GILL BOWMAN - The Red Album/My Yellow Ukulele

GILL BOWMAN - The Red Album/My Yellow Ukulele
Brechin All Records CDBAR024

This isn’t Gill Bowman’s normal folk territory – in fact it isn’t really ‘folk music’ in the normally accepted sense, but it is acoustic music written by folk, sung by one of our favourite folkies and aimed at wee folk – so it has a strong claim to be reviewed on these hallowed pages. Most of it is also ‘composer-unknown’ (Bee Baw Babbity, Dance Tae Yer Daddy) and handed down orally over many centuries – thus fitting the most rigid definition!

This is a strong pitch into the territory vacated some time ago by Artie and Cilla as The Singing Kettle (the excellent ‘Fun Box’ that followed the venerable Kettle is something else altogether, aimed differently, but also very splendid). Both CDs comprise largely well-known children’s songs, based around Gill’s Song Circle sessions for wee ones. This sort of thing has also been done by Steeleye Span’s Tim Hart on his 1981 My Very Favourite Nursery Rhymes, with Maddy Prior, John Kirkpatrick and other folk-rock luminaries of the time. In my view, these albums are really important, as they bring the idea and the actuality of singing with your kids back up to date and here and now, to a society where such a thing isn’t the norm. If your rugrats (and you!) sing along like this, they will learn to value live music and discover their own ability to make it. Few things could be so important. For those of us who sing and play as a matter of course, it is easy – for those who don’t, CDs like these are pure gold.

So – what are Gill’s My Yellow Ukulele and Red Album like? We all know that Gill has a lovely, natural, unaffected voice. We know that she plays neat guitar. What I didn’t know is that she has such a huge, natural rapport with wee persons (silly me!). This is essentially a live recording of her Song Circle activity – with mums/dads and wee persons in the Skylark Cafe in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge. Gill has thrown in a few of her own songs for small persons, but this is mostly well-known children’s songs (I don’t like the ‘Nursery Rhymes’ moniker … far too twee) with a bit of a Scottish tweak. I like Gill’s own There’s A Moose Loose and My Yellow Ukulele in particular, but it’s not helpful to pick out favourites – it’s all just warm, funny, relaxed and very skilful singing with wee people and their looker-afterers.

Song Circle sits comfortably alongside similar initiatives such as PEEP (Parents Early Education Partnership), which promotes simple singing and storytelling with parents and children. This is going to sound grumpy-old-gitlike and probably worthy-middle-class-gitlike as well, but the skills of reading books, telling tales and singing simple songs with children have been lost in far too many homes. If only we could get this form of natural, fun, high-quality home-made music into the homes and hearts of every small person and his/her parents/guardians, we would, I think, make big strides toward better parenting, happier children and a healthier society. What Gill is doing is important, as the CDs/downloads can be used by those who profess to be unmusical to sing with their sproglets as tunelessly as they like in the privacy of their own homes! End of sermon/rant.

Buy these for someone - for your children, grandchildren, kids-next-door or just yourself. It will make you smile, sing along and forget Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Donald Trump (washes his mouth out before continuing) and all these egregious eejits (I’d emulate Ewan McGregor and use a more appropriate word, but will not, out of respect for The Living Tradition) who are sent to try us.

I love these CDs and so does Heidi – my grandsproglet.

Alan Murray

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 115 of The Living Tradition magazine.