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Robbie Thomas of EDS

reviews Days O' Grace by Hector Gilchrist

Hector Gilchrist is a Scottish-born singer whose musical background started in childhood in a musical family in Ayrshire. During his chosen career as a dairy technologist in Cheshire, Aberdeenshire, County Clare and Surrey, where he finally settled, he maintained a consistent involvement in local folk clubs. Hector’s singing has a powerful intimacy that is carried by a rich, mellow, warm-toned voice. His vocal style harks back to an earlier era in Scottish song, reminding me more of the great Calum Kennedy than of Andy M. Stewart or Dick Gaughan.

On Days o’ Grace – his fourth album for WildGoose Records – Hector is joined by Vicki Swan (flute, Scottish smallpipes, English Border pipes, double bass, vocals), Jonny Dyer (guitar, accordion, piano, vocals) and Moira Craig (vocals).

The presence of these fine musicians and singers, allied to some superb arrangements, acts as a foil to Hector’s fine voice in a selection of mainly Scottish material – traditional, contemporary and selfcomposed. Picking out individual tracks for mention is always an invidious task, but I was particularly taken by Hector’s performance of ‘The Gowden Locks o’ Anna’, written by Robert Burns during his impassioned affair with the niece of the innkeeper at the Globe tavern in Dumfries, with its unrepentant final verse. The CD’s opening track, Brian McNeill’s ‘The Trysting Fair at Falkirk’ has long been a personal favourite of mine, and Hector and his band of musicians deliver it with aplomb.

On Days o’ Grace, Hector Gilchrist proves himself to be not only a skilled singer in the Scottish tradition, but also a fine interpreter of contemporary, tradition-based songs and of the songs of Robert Burns. Now that he is semi-retired, Hector claims to have the time to take on further musical challenges and, on the basis of this CD, I hope that he does.