Sleeve Notes for Days O' Grace by Hector Gilchrist
This is Hector's 4th album with Wildgoose and he has returned to his Scottish roots with most of the songs coming from Scotland.
All of the accompaniments are provided by Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer and Moira Craig provides some lovely harmony singing.
Hector Gilchrist: vocals, guitar.
Jonny Dyer: guitar, accordion, piano, harmony vocals.
Vicki Swan: flute, nyckelharpas, double bass, harmony vocals.
Moira Craig: harmony vocals.
Hector has a very fine tenor voice with a most incredible range. His interpretation of traditional and modern songs, mostly with a Scottish flavour, are second to none. He has an extensive repertoire of Burns’ songs and has included just one on this album since he has recorded a complete album of them in the past. He has been singing in venues of all descriptions for the last 50 years and is an experienced performer which shows through on this album.
Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer are two of the most wide ranging accomplished musicians around in the folk world today and Hector has chosen them to do most of the accompaniments on the album. A wise choice resulting in a very varied album with very inventive backings.
The selection of tracks in this album is mostly comprised of songs which are part of my regular performances and some which should have been. There is at the end of the day, always a difficult choice and a better song.’
The realisation that it was fifty years since I first performed at the “Sing Out” Folk Club in Crewe Cheshire, founded by Dave and Gwenna Carless and friends and seven years since my last recording on Wildgoose, prompted me to record this album of mainly Scottish material. In 1961 I had arrived in England to work in Further Education and brought with me a varied collection of songs ranging from Traditional Scottish song, Skiffle, Calypso and anything else which might be the fashion of the day and could be played with the old four chord, guitar technique.
I had always sung from a young age, aided no doubt, by genetic good fortune inherited from both parents who regularly hosted their siblings and friends who would descend on occasional week-ends from Glasgow, on our small Ayrshire farm- holding, in the post war years.
From this singing environment there was no retreat and we were all pressed into service, with my cousin playing the piano and party pieces performed. The “Heidie” of my local Coylton school, was also keen to encourage the singing and recitation of the works of Burns and to that end there was the annual so-called, competition where I had my first success. Today, I am grateful for these introductions to the traditional and popular songs of the day. I will continue to sing at Clubs and Festivals whilst I am still invited, but my family and friends have been well primed to let me know when it is time to stop embarrassing them!
The selection of tracks in this album is mostly comprised of songs which are part of my regular performances and some which should have been. There is at the end of the day, always a difficult choice and a better song.
1 The Trysting Fair at Falkirk
Bryan McNeil. Words / music
A rousing song, with a good chorus, which catalogues the changes in fortune over the centuries of the famous Falkirk Agricultural Fair. It was a great draw throughout Scotland, with animals being brought down on the old droving roads to be fattened up on the rich lowland pastures. It was also where “feeing” took place for farm workers seeking new employment.
2 The Gowden Locks o` Anna
Burns wrote this poem during an impassioned affair with the niece of the innkeeper of the Globe Tavern in Dumfries. She bore him a daughter, Elizabeth, who was raised within the Burns family. He was much criticised for this liaison, and later added the unrepentant fourth verse.
3 Turn Ye tae Me
C.North. / Trad. arranged
This rather gloomy poem by Christopher North was set to a old gaelic rowing melody, and was a favourite of my father`s when I sang it at home.
4 Lay the Bent tae the Bonny Broom
This is one of the many versions of an old ballad collected throughout the United Kingdom. The devil is disguised as a knight in this case, and poses his “questions three”, which intriguingly seem to become six! Well, you never could trust The Deil.
5 Glassmaker‘s Hand
Colum Sands is a popular visitor to my local Folk Club, the Ram in Thames Ditton. I heard him sing this song a couple of years ago, and resolved to learn it. A typically simple story about the mysterious origins of the art of glass-making is made special by Colum‘s poetical skill and fertile imagination.
6 Just a Boy
I was much taken by this little sentimental song by Alan Reid, the ex Battlefield Band keyboard player. He has suggested that it was about growing old, but I think that it is probably about the realisation that it is really the women who are in control all along.
7 The Shian Road
This is a poem written by Ian as a tribute to his father, who loved the hills and the glens around the Argyll peninsula. He subsequently created a tune to match the sentiments. I first heard it beautifully sung by Isla St Clair.
8 Strong and Faithful
H Gilchrist. /E.Thomson
This was written by the duo “Selkie” for a special gathering of the Clan Maclachlan, of which the Gilchrists are a sept. The clan slogan is “Fortis et Fidus”. The Clan lands, which are in Strathlachlan near Strachur, were forfeited after Culloden, but were eventually returned to the Chieftanship, currently held by Ewan Maclachlan of Castle Lachlan, Strathlachlan. Now there‘s a challenge for the non Scots!
9 John Condon
Laird /Starrett /McCrory
There is still debate concerning the true identity of the soldier whose headstone lies in the Poelkapelle War Cemetery, but this does not detract from the poignancy of this song about the death of a young Irish boy serving in the British army, as many of his fellow countrymen did in the Great War. It has been much recorded, but I felt compelled to include it in this Anniversary year.
10 The Menzies Tree
Gordon Menzies, of the popular and long serving duo, “Gaberlunzie”, wrote this song about a travelling shepherd of the Menzies Clan, whose Clan symbol is a Scots Pine tree. The legend states that whilst such a tree remains standing on Rannoch Moor, the future of the Clan is assured.
11 Willie‘s Drooned in Yarrow
I first heard this Border song sung by the MacEwan brothers, Rory and Alex, around 1957. Their important contribution to Scottish Folk song was not always acknowledged by the politically orientated folk song community of the day, due to the brothers‘ perceived privileged background. The song is about a lassie who has been “twined o‘ her marrow” i.e. parted from her lover.
12 Faraway Tom
This song reminds me of a travelling man who used to pay an annual visit to my junior school in Ayrshire. He would tell tales of the countryside to the assembled classes, and also fascinate us with his ability to play tunes with a pencil on his remaining two front teeth. Dave Goulder, who is well known for his “January Man” song and others, was a regular presence on the early Revival folk scene, but moved to the North of Scotland to teach the craft of dry stone walling.
13 Traivellers Joy
H. Fullerton. / Trad.
In this poem, Helen Fullerton tells the story of a travelling lass, who worked in the canteen of the Shira Dam Project, near Inveraray. She was the object of a siteworker‘s affection, but declined his advances, refusing to walk with him up the Shian (fairy) hill. The original tune is traditional, but has been subject to various arrangements, including that of McMorland / McIntyre.
14 Lang Road Hame
I originally wrote this as a poem, and it was some time before I composed the tune. In this version, an itinerant farm worker expresses his love for his partner throughout the long years of frequent absence. The album title is taken from a verse of the poem, and the cover is a photo of the isle of Arran, in the Firth of Clyde, which was taken by our friend, Eve Mathews, now resident in Sidmouth.
Sir Alexander Grey. / H. Gilchrist
I came across this poem, written by the Scottish economist, in a book on whisky, given to me by a friend. For some bizarre reason this, along with several other such unrelated poems, was also included. I later discovered that the particular verse which I selected as a chorus is now etched on a wall of the present Scottish Parliament.