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Norman Kennedy "'Live' in Scotland" The Traditon Bearers LTCD2002
Younger readers can be excused for asking "who he?". This man is a living, singing, link to the real sources of our tradition, such as Jeannie Robertson - whose distinctive style can be heard through that of her friend and "pupil", Norman Kennedy.

In this matter of 'style', for want of a better word, I would disagree with my great hero (Martin Carthy, since you asked!) who, in an as-yet unpublished LT interview, argues that there is no such thing as a "traditional style". Perhaps its because I'm a relative newcomer, who became interested initially in the 1970s, but I do hear a distinct and distinctive approach to singing in Norman Kennedy, from Jeannie Robertson, through to younger singers (including Uncle Martin, from Walter Pardon, Joseph Taylor and others). To be sure, they don't sound the same, but there is a common lack of interest in what a classical musician would call "good" singing, which is replaced by a firm emphasis on the song and its meaning, as opposed to the beauty or otherwise of the singer's voice. There is, of course enormous beauty in the singing of all of the above, but it comes from the song and from the passion and commitment of the performance - the fine voices are almost incidental and stylistic quirks abound that would horrify a classically-oriented singer.

Meanwhile, back at Norman … this is an unusual and inventive mixture of well-known ('Nancy Whisky', 'Laird o' Drum') and lesser-known (to me at least … 'Molly Baun' and 'Waulkin Song'), all delivered to an appreciative audience, recorded and produced splendidly by Tom Spiers. It highlights Norman's "rooted" approach to the music and his ability to move from a big ballad to a comic song with consummate ease.

Our loss is most definitely America's gain. Apologies for the cliché - but it's never been more apt.

Alan Murray

To Hear Some Sample Tracks Click Here (Needs Real Player)

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This album was reviewed in Issue 47 of The Living Tradition magazine.