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Archie Fisher & Garnet Rogers

Greentrax CDTRAX270

This album is a bit of a curio to us Europeans. Why? Well, because it was released the best part of 20 years ago in North America, but never got round to achieving the worldwide release it most emphatically deserved. Now, Snowgoose Records who originally released the album, have invited Greentrax to re-release it elsewhere.

The album results from several live recordings made when these two famous names toured North America in 1985. I say "two" famous names, but truth is that perhaps that should read "one". Archie was then at the top of his game, having just said hello to "middle age", and was rightly then acclaimed as perhaps the finest exponent of Scots ballads on the folk scene. Garnet Rogers however, outside his native Canada, was known (if known at all) as the kid brother of the great Stan: probably no more. Most British folkies would have been hard-pressed to tell you that FIDDLE was Garnett's instrument of choice.

Today of course, things are different. Archie is now in late middle age, and is now revered as a BROADCASTER as much as a performer: and Garnett's fame has spread (not least for his abilities as a PRODUCER, as much as a performer).

And how does the CD play today, two decades later? Well, just like it was recorded YESTERDAY. Very easy on the ear.

Some of my Fisher favourite tracks are here. The traditional 'Rolling Home' has a chorus every bit as attractive as the John Tams chorus song of the same name ; Archie's singing of Andy Barnes's 'The Last Leviathan' would bring tears to a glass eye; and Jack Foley's 'Lassie O' The Morning' is a song that still deserves to be wider known (it is a puzzle why it never took off and became a "standard" in the folk repertoire). Rogers's fiddle adds vital chiaroscuro to the Fisher guitar, and Garnett himself had me laughing out loud with one humorous introduction.

One track puzzled me a little. The opening number, 'Borderland': a setting by Archie of a poem by Roger Quin.

Not that the song is not enjoyable: it is. But I was struck by how apparent it was that the poet had just read the great Banjo Paterson's 'Clancy of the Overflow'. Like he had subconsciously turned out a Scottish version. (Or could it have been the other way round? I think not, for the Aussie poem was first published in 1895, whereas the Scots one had to wait until a further fifteen years elapsed, and the poet himself was 60

years of age. That said, Quin seldom wrote his poems down, and thus it is not impossible that he composed it much earlier and somehow it had travelled the 12,000 miles to Australia.but somehow I think not!!

But whatever the facts, there is nothing wrong with putting a tune to Quin's poem: it works rather well. But methinks Archie should try setting to music the wonderful Paterson "Clancy" verses. Not that he needs to: that has already been done very successfully.

All-in-all though, whilst not Archie's best album, this is very much a rewarding album that solidly delivers.

Dai Woosnam

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The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 61 of The Living Tradition magazine.