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EWAN McLENNAN - Stories Still Untold

EWAN McLENNAN - Stories Still Untold
Fellside Recordings FECD263

This is the third album from the Edinburgh-born singer/songwriter. And it simply oozes class, as you might expect from a man whose debut album in 2010, won the BBC Radio 2 Horizon Award, and who we have since seen on our TV in 2013 and 2014, more than holding his own with those mighty regular stellar names on the BBC Four series, Transatlantic Sessions.

Fellside Records is a natural home for him methinks: they are a label who never sell any of their artistes short, having the highest production values. The CD is handsomely presented in a striking Digipak format, with Fellside's trademark of beautifully legible liner notes: notes that never take the cop-out route of reprinting lyrics, but instead give the listener - often vital - information regarding the creative process in relation to every track.

Seemingly effortless flowing guitar work from McLennan, is matched by the work of his studio musicians: invidious to mention one perhaps over the others, but I have to say that Beth Porter's cello reduced me to a quivering wreck, such was the way she spoke to me. Cello from the soul.

Ewan comes up with 13 tracks, most of them well known. I was not familiar with his own three compositions: but testament to their quality, is that they did not seem too much in the shadow of really great songs like Alistair Hulett's The Granite Cage and that fine traditional ballad The Shearing's No For You, here sung in a slightly different version and called The Shearing.

This is both an intimate and moving album. But do not expect the gamut from A to Z with Ewan: a friend visited me when this was on the CD player. I asked her to listen to it all the way through. At the end, she said “it's very lovely, but isn't it all slightly samey?”

I laughed. For “samey” it emphatically is not: the songs vary markedly, both in content and mood. But still, I sort of “get” what she meant.

It is a bit like a great movie director such as Bernardo Bertolucci, choosing to film a whole movie in the autumnal colours of brown and mellow yellow. A part of the listener hopes that Ewan might choose to sing in other colors that are available on his palette.

But only a small part of this listener! I rejoice in that sensitivity and sensibility so evident in Ewan's every word.

When we lost Iain MacKintosh and Bert Jansch in recent years, I have been waiting for a male voice with that same mixture of vulnerability, sensitivity, and above all, humanity.

In Ewan McLennan, I think we have that voice.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 104 of The Living Tradition magazine.