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ROBIN LAING - Holding Gold 

ROBIN LAING - Holding Gold 
Frisky Whisky FW002CD 

This is a departure for Robin: for the first time he adds a couple of whisky songs to an album of self-penned love songs, family songs and songs telling stories from Scottish history. It thus helps guarantee that there’s something in this CD for everyone.

The subjects of the songs run the gamut, taking in the historical – with references to Bannockburn and Flodden - up to the present day’s joyous love song I Still Believe In You, and the deeply thoughtful – without being achingly melancholic – The Wicker Man, his moving song about his son Arran who was born in March 2007, but lived just one day. Not a single track fails to make the grade, helped enormously by his tip-top musical ensemble, with multi-instrumentalist and backing vocalist Steven Polwart being particularly prominent.

Two songs are quite outstanding. His song Picasso Paints Guernica fascinated me, even though seeing the original in the Reina Sofia in Madrid 15 years ago means I don’t quite share Robin’s passion for what he calls one of Picasso’s “greatest works”. But hey, Robin’s written one of his own greatest songs here, in Pablo’s voice. How I loved the last line of this stanza... A newspaper horse is dying / It falls down to the floor / I'll tell this story in black and white / For sometimes less is more.

But even better is his opening track, The Blantyre Overwinding. Oh, what a song! Having had a collier father killed by King Coal at just 56, I am not the best person to be impartial in my thinking here. I’ll just say this: it’s up there with Phil Millichip’s If I Had A Son, as the best song about coal mining ever. No greater praise.

Dai Woosnam


This review appeared in Issue 141 of The Living Tradition magazine