A Review of the CD
by Dick Gaughan
by Dick Gaughan
P.O. Box 2593
West Chester, PA 19380
This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 11/98
"Kevin’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Displaying surety in his song styling and interpretational ability,
Dick Gaughan’s latest release is an eclectic mix of mostly celtic compositions,
including two of his own, and a few songs from American songwriters. His
talent of blending delicate verses and tunes, with his trademark passionate,
snarling grit, gets put to the full test here, and he carries it off seamlessly.
Never straying too long or far from his working class roots or political
leitmotif, he revisits familiar territory and engages the discerning listener
with "Gone, Gonna Rise Again," "Ewan and the Gold," "Why Old Men Cry,"
"Thomas Muir of Huntershill," "Reconciliation," and "All the King’s Horses."
He covers Brian McNeil’s masterpiece "Muir and the Master Builder" as only
a fellow Scotsman could, and even throws in a better-than-the-original
"Let It Be Me," an old Everly Brothers tune.
Performing "Muir and the Master Builder" with both fervor and snap,
Gaughan pays tribute to the bittersweet life of John Muir, the man most
instrumental in cajoling and convincing the United States government to
develop the National Parks system, and Yosemite National Park in particular.
Containing captivating imagery and poignancy, this composition should become
one of Scotland’s anthems.
The spare "Gone, Gonna Rise Again," a Si Kahn-penned tune seemingly
about the hardscrabble life of Appalachian residents and their roots to
the land, has applicability to anywhere. This applicability provocatively
includes the Scots, especially those forcibly moved during the Highland
clearances, and their ties to the land. Gaughan sings in the last verse:
"...High on a ridge above the farm
"Reconciliation," subtlely performed with acoustic guitar, is especially
timely. Metaphorically describing the Catholic and Protestant factions
in Ireland in the guise of two lovers, Gaughan sings:
I think of my people that have gone on
Like a tree that grows in the mountain ground
The storms of life have cut them down
But the new wood springs from the root underground."
"...Now there’s a time to fight and a time for healing
Gaughan’s "Why Old Men Cry" twines the experiences of soldiers in World
War I with the economic and social upheavals caused by the disappearance
of so many manufacturing and coal mining jobs in Scotland. Noting "a certain
sorrowful look in the eyes of men who had been in World War I" and "I have
observed the same in the eyes of old men witnessing the decimation of industrial
employment", Gaughan’s use of the piano and electric guitar have an especially
good effect in this surprisingly low key tale.
As the sun will melt the snow on clear bright April mornings
Our fight has run its course, now’s the time for healing
So let us both embrace sweet reconcilation."
"Thomas Muir of Huntershill," an anthem to human rights, concerns the
trial and subsequent conviction of this human rights martyr of the late
18th-early 19th centuries. For those of us blessed to live where we do
and who too often take our rights for granted, Gaughan warns:
"...Gerrard, Palmer, Skirving, Thomas Muir and Margarot
Written by Adam McNaughton, this is one of the most powerful selections
on this release.
These are names that every Scottish man and woman ought to know
When you're called for jury service, when your name is drawn by lot
When you vote in an election when you freely voice your thought
Don't take these things for granted, for dearly were they bought."
Brian McNeil’s wonderful "Ewan and the Gold" tells the story of a St.
Kildan who followed his dream to find his fortune in the Californian gold
fields. However, as Gaughan sings:
"...For all the gold Ewan Gillies ever found
So Ewan, drawn to his roots, eventually returns to live out his life on
St. Kilda. However, scorned now by the residents and finding he is no longer
"part of the fold", he departs St. Kilda for good. The irony of this account
is that his success becomes part of the island folklore.
Could not buy him peace or freedom
From the memory of the sound
Of the waves on St. Kilda’s rocky shore..."
Another strong cut is Gaughan’s "All the King’s Horses." Augmented with
electric guitar, Gaughan offers a payback to the rule of Thatcher, Major
and the Tories:
"...I tried to tell you a long time ago
Gaughan continues on:
But you thought there was nothing you didn't now
Never knew where to draw the line
Shut your eyes to warning signs
Now the hounds are baying, the hunt is on
There’s nowhere to hide and there’s nowhere to run..."
"...You hurt so many on your upward climb
Written just before the enormous Tory losses in the 1997 Great Britain
general election, Gaughan doesn't gloat--he performs it more matter-of-factly
than anything else. But it had to be tremendously satisfying for him to
have the opportunity to write such a forceful composition. Interestingly
enough, due to the recent election results that will provide Scotland with
its own Parliament, the lyrics could also be applicable to England itself,
not just the Tories.
Now you're all alone and it’s closing time
Nobody left now to keep you safe
From the angry mob tearing down your gate
You never believed it could happen to you
But the time has come now to pay some dues..."
His performance on this release is a mixture of subtlety and ardor.
His political and humanistic themes are well-covered, plus, he performs
songs he just plain admires. This is not a concept-type album but he covers
enough themes, ideas and styles to offer something for everyone.
Gaughan is backed on this release by Rob Handleigh on piano and keyboard,
Davie Paton on bass and Steve Green on drums.
- Muir and the Master Builder (6:50) Brian McNeill
- Gone, Gonna Rise Again (3:41) Si Kahn
- Reconciliation (5:23) Ron Kavana
- Why Old Men Cry (5:54) Dick Gaughan
- Thomas Muir of Huntershill (4:02) Adam McNaughton
- October Song (5:12) Robin Williamson
- Ewan and the Gold (6:33) Brian McNeill
- Let It Be Me (3:06) Becaud/Belanoe/Curtis
- All the King’s Horses (3:56) Dick Gaughan
- Pancho and Lefty (5:53) Townes Van Zandt
- Turn, Turn, Turn (3:53) Pete Seeger
- Fine Horseman (5:58) Lal Waterson
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