Published: 22/03/2016 13:49 - Updated: 22/03/2016 15:53

Folk album reviews: Mairearad Green and Jim Malcolm

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Mairearad Green

Summer Isles

BUIECD03

IF you want to hear accordionist/piper/composer Mairearad Green on disc, you have a variety of options: her Mairearad and Anna duo with Anna Massie, accordion supergroup Box Club and her work as part of all female band The Poozies.

To date, however, she has only put out one full length album under her own name, her Celtic Connections Festival Commission, Passing Places.

Summer Isles is her second solo release and marks an entry into new territory for Green, who has recently moved back to her native Wester Ross.

The big change for Green in this solo album is the inclusion of songs, some performed by herself and others by guest vocalists.

Top of that guest list is fellow box player King Creosote on the single Star of Hope. That track, powered along by the bass of Ross Saunders, suggests Green could ease into a more pop-friendly direction if she wanted, but otherwise the album stays closer to Green’s traditional bass.

Other guests make their own key contributions, among them Nairn’s Mike Vass on fiddle and Southern Tenant Folk Union’s Pat McGarvey on banjo, while producer Iain Hutchison adds an impressive array of instruments.

None of this is to detract from Green’s own part as accordionist, piper, pianist and composer in an album that is more varied and accessible than her debut.

Completing the pack are some nicely shot photographs by Peter Haring, capturing a thoughtful looking Green on those precious little islands.

Jim Malcolm

Live in Perth

Beltane Records Belcd111

WHEN Jim Malcolm emerged on the Scottish folk scene in the 1990s, he quickly established himself as one of its brightest new talents. Impressive instrumental talents, on guitar and harmonica, were a bonus to a rich voice that perfectly suited and yet updated traditional Scots material. No mean songwriter either, Malcolm has always been an engaging live performer, which is why this live release is so welcome.

If there is a disappointment about the album it is that Malcolm, one of the finest current interpreters of Burns does not make room for any of the National Bard’s songs on the CD, but there is plenty of fine material here to compensate.

The set starts with a tip of the hat to two fine singers and songwriters from the generation that inspired Malcolm and his own peers, Brian McNeill from Battlefield Band and the late Andy M. Stewart from Silly Wizard, while another of Malcolm’s personal mentors, Jim Reid, also gets a nod later on with the song Vinney Den.

Malcolm also makes his pick from the traditional songbook, with The Jolly Beggar and Rere’s Hill among the familiar contributions, but happy to report that Malcolm has also been flicking through his old notebooks to provide a taste of his own songsmithery.

That can range from the introspective The First Cold Day and Blindness of My Youth via a train journey from Perth to Lochearn that is a classic example of spinning a bit of Scottish history into song in a way that the aforementioned Brian McNeill was a master of, to a touch of satire. The album closes on two examples that are equally strong in different ways: Money Making Money, where Malcolm gives full vent to his anger at greed and exploitation and the swing setting to Cleaning Out My Moat, where humour is his deceptively gentle weapon.

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