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RODGER LYALL A Tale of the Howe

A Tale of the Howe

It is now exactly a quarter of a century since my work took me to The Howe of The Mearns, a very special part of Scotland. And just as long since I read a novel by James Leslie Mitchell, or to give him his pen-name, Lewis Grassic Gibbon. And both have stayed in my head, though I confess that Old Father Time has faded the memory somewhat, as he often does.

What better then to mark the 25 years than to get my hands on this veritable Labour of Love by Rodger Lyall. (Not that it is a one-man show exactly: far from it. For he has been joined by some quality musicians and some very capable singers and narrators. But that said, it has been HIS baby, and without his drive, the whole thing would never have got off the ground.) And I salute him for it. It is not the kind of album one encounters every day: indeed you might say that this type of thoughtful, lovely, impassioned oddity comes around . once every quarter century!

The album is a hymn of praise to that sweet little county of Kincardineshire which (let me explain to non-Scots reading this!) is almost - but not quite! - to Scotland as "Rutland" is to England. Even its biggest town - Stonehaven - has the indignity of often being referred to as "near Aberdeen", rather than the "county town of Kincardineshire". 'A Tale of the Howe' is an effort to capture on disc a now vanished age when expectations were not as great, life was not as fast, and people were content with much less than the diametrically different world of today. It was a world of characters and 'character'. However, that said, so much of it is relevant to today. 'Sunset Song' written from inside the hell of the First World War, is one number that resonates with me and makes me think of Blairescu's Iraq adventure.

Lyall has let me travel back in time, and I enjoyed the trip. Along with the narration, he presents us with eight songs, four with lyrics by him, one traditional, two by Jim Douglas from Fife, and one very famous song by Ewan McVicar ('Shift And Spin'). Sarah Wilson, a new name to me, composed five very evocative pieces of music that succeed in creating the perfect ambience on which to set the narration. All the performances are very solid. No weak links. Geordie Murison in particular, does wonders when given a bothy ballad to sing. Would I recommend this CD? Well, if you have Caledonia in your blood, for sure I would.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 67 of The Living Tradition magazine.