If ever there was a primer for Scottish music, this is it. Kris Drever, blessed with voice perfect for both modern and traditional music, presents a great blend of both, his Scottish brogue a mere breath on some songs yet key to others. It is the voice, you see, which sets this set aside from most others of its kind. And the production. And the arrangements.
Actually, it is the choice of material which puts this among the likes of Silly Wizard and early Fairport Convention, and it is easily on that plane. Each song is chosen for beauty and effect, and what effect! Modern/traditional/traditional/ modern/traditional and on until they blend into a melodious whole. It puts one in mind of Fairport's Liege and Lief or Silly Wizard's Wild and Beautiful, though perhaps a bit more subdued. Still the highs are as high and the music flows effortlessly.
Standout tracks are both modern and traditional also. Sandy Wright's Steel and Stone (Black Water) and Beads and Feathers" are modern classics, as is Boo Hewerdine's musical take on immigrant labor at the time of America's Dust Bowl, Harvest Gypsies. Andy McKay adds a tune which shows how truly linked is Scotland's music and America's, Poor Man's Son, which could as easily come out of Georgia or Oklahoma as Scotland (just think Jesse James instead of a poor Scot's son). On the traditional side, Braw Sailin' On the Sea is breathtaking in its melody and presentation, Patrick Spence is immaculate (with acoustic guitar sounds of positively ethereal beauty), and Fause Fause is dirge-like and heartbreaking, carried over the edge by Andy Cutting's diatonic accordion and Donald Shaw's funereal and delicate piano.
Drever is definitely the voice, but John McCusker and Andy Seward help provide the essence of soul to these recordings. McCusker's exceptional production job is absolutely first-rate and McCusker and Seward along with Drever show us all how important arrangements can be.
If Black Water had been released in the early 70s, we would be talking about Kris Drever in the same awestruck tones as we do Richard Thompson and Fairport and Steeleye Span and Fotheringay and the meere handful of bands and artists who swept us away in those early days of UK folk and rock. And let us not leave out Dougie MacLean, who stepped in and out of a few bands and in between has given us an amazing legacy of Scottish and British music. Kris and Dougie? Sounds like a dream show to me.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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