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ERIC BOGLE - Other People's Children

ERIC BOGLE - Other People's Children
Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX287

Oh Eric! This sinner of a Reviewer comes before you to beg your forgiveness. To THINK, that only a few months back I was telling myself that you were a spent force! And figuring that you waggishly dubbing yourself and ace accompanist John Munro as, "The Elderly Brothers", was really a defence mechanism against potential critics.

"Defence mechanism"? Hardly. For, the fact is that any adverse criticism will just evaporate when faced with this album, Eric's best in ages. It was a pleasure to review. His new songs are almost all of a very decent standard, and he has written one song here that is a masterwork to rank with And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, Dan and Now I'm Easy. More on that later. Throughout this album, his voice is as good as it ever was, and as he now approaches his seventh decade, his lower register has actually improved. He is hitting some low notes that would have tested Johnny Cash. But not only is his own singing marvellously assured, so is the work of the small group of artistes he has surrounded himself with.

Of course, we have come to expect it of John Munro. This guy is a class act. His work, especially on mandolin, was a joy throughout: as was the extraordinarily poignant fiddle of Emma Luker, and the inventive congas and shakers of Daniele Mignano. Munro even contributed the fine closing song, While I Am Here, which has the potential to become a folk standard. Otherwise all the songs are written by Eric, though on one track he shares the limelight with my boyhood hero A.E.Housman (whose name, the normally so-professional Greentrax, allow to be spelt wrongly the three times it is mentioned in the liner notes! Shame! How literary heroes get forgotten, eh?)

That particular track (with the Housman lyrics) was titled To An Athlete Dying Young: and I first played it on the day of the George Best funeral. (Hardly analogous, in that Georgie did not die THAT young, but there are other resonances in the lyric that made it unspeakably sad when juxtaposed with the events at Stormont that Saturday.) And, incidentally, Eric has produced a fine melody that really fits the poem like a glove.

But I have left till last the masterpiece. It is the title track. A heartfelt lament that so many defenceless innocents get killed in a myriad nasty little wars. Other People's Children is a song that will bring a huge lump to your throat. Interestingly, it made me think of Beslan. Yet four songs later comes the second song on pretty much that same subject: Thou Shalt Not. And this one Eric specifically says was his response to that school tragedy. Yet, despite some wondrous plangent electric guitar from Munro, this song has little of the astonishing power of the title track. A very decent album with one true jewel of a song jumping out at you. Recommended.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 66 of The Living Tradition magazine.