A Review of the Mick West CD
"A Poor Man's Labour"

"A Poor Man's Labour"
by Mick West

(Claytara Music CLCD042)
Copyright: Claytara Music, Edinburgh 2004.

This review was originally written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 8/04

I have never seen Mick West in live performance. That is clearly my loss.

For here with his third album he has come up with a seriously good piece of work that can stand comparison with the albums recently issued by the Bob Foxes and the Keith Kendricks.

Most of the tracks are from the Tradition, with the occasional contemporary song thrown in. And a particularly eyebrow-raising (at first) juxtapositioning of Ewan McVicar's “Shift and Spin” with Rodgers and Hart's “My Funny Valentine”, (which by the way you chaps at Claytara Music, has the great man's name misspelled in the liner notes, with the “d” missing from RR's surname). Despite both these songs seeming curious bedfellows, the segue from one to the other works fine. And the more you think of the lyrics of the former, somehow you realise that the songs are not “opposites” at all, but two sides of the same coin.

There is not a weak track on this CD. West's fine voice is augmented by some lovely understated harmonies by Karine Polwart, and both are bolstered by some wonderfully assured instrumental work from Stevie Lawrence, Frank McLaughlin and Fraser Fifield (FF also recorded, mixed, mastered and produced).

Stevie Lawrence (whose work I have reviewed in the past) is a very considerable musician indeed. He has stayed on my radar these past few years. But Frank McLaughlin had not. How pleased I am to see he is still alive and apparently thriving.

It must be over a decade ago since I spoke face-to-face with Frank. He had just blown me away in a duo with a very pretty girl called Gillian MacDonald. They were called “The Vital Spark”. Nice to know he hasn't lost it.

And Fifield (no mean musician in his own right) has produced a lovely clean sound. But even if Mick West had been produced by someone suffering from a cloth ear and a distinct lack of contact with reality, he STILL would have come up trumps with that fabulous voice of his. He has a spectacularly unadulterated Scots accent, but despite this (“despite”? ... maybe BECAUSE of this!) the clarity of his diction is never in doubt. My favourite track was track 8, a song from the pen of Alistair Hulett (sorry chaps, another spelling howler! Not “Alasdair Hewlett”!)

Sadly, the CD is diminished not so much by these piffling spelling errors, as by a lack of proper liner notes. Come on Claytara! You have a fine product here: don't cut corners at the last minute. How I would have loved some notes on the songs: okay, these are VERY familiar songs and I guess that Claytara reckoned that there was not a lot new to say about them.

Perhaps they are right.

But at least we could have been told why Mick West picked what he picked.

Please put things right for your fourth album Mick. And a fourth album there assuredly will be.

A quality performer.

Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England

Track List:

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