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HAMISH IMLACH - Cod Liver Oil & the Orange Juice

HAMISH IMLACH - Cod Liver Oil & the Orange Juice (Double CD)
Castle CMDDD1369

How do you review someone who is thought of as legendary; still talked of fondly years after his death; still sadly missed by many? It might seem enough to simply quote the above, and add that here are thirty-two typical tracks on two CDs, but more is required to do justice to this mans outstanding talents.

Imlach died in 1996 at the tragically early age of fifty-five, so this round-up of cuts from the many recordings he made for the Transatlantic label becomes all the more poignant. He was the epitome of the singing, finger-picking, joke-cracking entertainer the folk clubs loved and disdainful purists like me scorned, albeit from a distance. Once I had been to an Imlach gig and seen him work his magic on an audience my opinion changed. I saw a man who loved the songs he sang and delivered them in a rough and ready but tuneful voice with honesty and feeling. I saw that the joviality and humour for which he was famous ('Connolly before Connolly' some said) was as natural as breathing to him, and never got in the way of his songs. Oh Yes, I became a fan.

The track list on these CDs shows the many areas of song he could handle from traditional ballads like 'McPherson's Farewell', 'Johnny O' Breadislie', and 'I Am a Miller To my Trade', to political comment and satire such as Hamish Henderson's 'Men O' Knoydart' and Ewan MacColl's 'Timothy Evans', the latter complete with a trenchant comment on the pardon granted Evans by Maggie Thatcher sixteen years after his hanging. He does a more than good job on Blind Blake's 'Early Morning Blues', the cowboy 'Streets of Laredo', the Australian 'Down the Castlereagh', and is absolutely knockout on Leadbelly's 'Jean Harlow'. 'Deep Ellum Blues', 'Little Maggie' and a medley of Glaswegian street songs, give an idea of the stretch of his repertoire; he has obviously listened widely, absorbed much, and loved what he heard. The live tracks included give the perfect explanation of why he was so successful in front of an audience, the atmosphere is almost tangible.

I am fond of saying that my favourite music is that of the old boys singing to their community, but the more I hear this, the more I think that Hamish Imlach singing to his folk club community is their equivalent. There must have been a joker or two among those old boys, I'm sure. Truth is, I consider him to be such a natural entertainer I can imagine him singing to any group of people, of any age or circumstance, and having them eating out of his hand in no time. Many thanks to Castle Music for bringing him on to CD, and thanks also Living Tradition for giving me the chance to say a few words about a great man.

Roy Harris

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This album was reviewed in Issue 70 of The Living Tradition magazine.