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Mike Rudge of Mardles

reviews Days O' Grace by Hector Gilchrist

A search of the internet will quickly reveal a reference to Hector Gilchrist as "golden voiced". This is a perfect description. On first listening to "Days of Grace", the fourth offering of Hector, my first thought was how beautiful his voice is, but I can't describe another bloke like that can I? His soft tenor tones have the ability to soar through much of the traditional Scottish fare on this album. He is joined with Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, although with no reference to their contribution on the individual song sleeve notes it was difficult to follow their exact contribution. Suffice to say that the musical accompaniments are sound and unobtrusive.

An established performer on the folk scene, Hector Gilchrist has appeared throughout the British Isles, Ireland and beyond. Born in Ayrshire, he has been involved in folk for many years. Hector sings traditional and contemporary folk ballads and is acknowledged as one of Scotland's finest interpreters of Robert Burns' songs, although only one such song appears on this album.

There is a combination of traditional and new songs on the album. Ranging from the beautiful The Gowden Locks o' Anna, a poem by Robbie Burns about his affair with a girl in Dumfriers, to Strong and Faithful, a marching song written for Hector's duo "Selkie " about the clan Maclachlan, of which the Gilchrists are a Sept (a family that follows another family's chief). A particularly poignant song that many may know is John Condon, about a young Irish boy that died serving in the British Army in the Great War included in the album to mark the 100th anniversary. My favourite track is Lay the Bent tae the Bonny Broom, a tale of the Devil disguising himself as a Knight and visiting some young ladies posing "questions three". The final track is a rousing patriotic song titled simply Scotland, that would vie well with Flower of Scotland as a National Song.

This is my country,
The land that begat me.
These windy spaces Are surely my own.
And those who toil here In the sweat of their faces
Are flesh of my flesh, And bone of my bone

Written by the academic economist Sir Alexander Grey the above words can be found on the Canongate Wall at the new Scottish Parliament building.

Although the album is delightful, it must come with a word of warning for those of us with an English pedigree. Anyone who has read Burns or been to a Burn's Night will be aware of how difficult the Scottish dialect is to follow at times! A translation dictionary would not have come amiss when listening to "Days o' Grace"!