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THE BROTHERS GILLESPIE - Songs From The Outlands

THE BROTHERS GILLESPIE - Songs From The Outlands
Gillywolfe Records GWRCD02

James and Sam Gillespie live in the Northumbrian village of Wall, at what was the border of the Roman Empire. The music on their debut album honours the wildness that preceded and survived the colonists. The brothers sing in harmony. James plays fiddle, guitar and shruti box, and Sam plays mandolin, guitar and flute.

The spirit of place is most obvious in the Northumbrian songs. The Wild Hills Of Wannie, with words by James Armstrong to an old piping tune; Devilswater, with James putting a tune to a supernatural poem by Wilfred Wilson Gibson (personal note – I was born thereabouts, in what was then a maternity hospital for Newcastle mums); and Bonny At Morn, an old song of a challenged family. From over the border comes My Son David, a version of Lord Randal learnt from an Alan Lomax field recording, the well-known Twa Corbies, and MacPherson’s Lament, with song and tune taken nice and slow (you’re going to be hung at the end, so why rush?).

Ireland, France and America are visited too. Spancil Hill is a strong opener. The Stolen Child is an early poem by WB Yeats put to music by Emily Stewart. Faeries take the child from a world more full of weeping than you can understand. L’Aloutte, a French children’s song about plucking a lark, is followed by a Breton tune. Butcher Boy, an American relative of several Border ballads, comes with a tarantella.

The brothers’ new age-ish voices blend well, as you would expect. Their musicianship is good, though not exceptional. The arrangements are leisurely, with each of the 10 tracks being given at least five minutes to breathe. Above all, this young duo’s music is from the heart.

This summer The Brothers Gillespie will be playing local festivals such as BAAFest in Bellingham and Music on the Marr in Castle Carrock, where I look forward to seeing them.

Cambridge Folk Festival is lined up too. So they are going places, and I wish them well.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 114 of The Living Tradition magazine.