Pete Heywood of The Living Tradition
reviews Days O' Grace by Hector GilchristThis album is a gem. Itís one of those that you put in the player and it stays on repeat for a while. Hector has put together a lovely bunch of songs, some standards, some that were well due a sympathetic outing and one or two that others will surely now pick up on.
If I were forced to single out one song it would be Hectorís version of Faraway Tom, written by Dave Goulder, he of The January Man fame. On other listenings though, I could easily pick out different sets of highlights. The overall feel of the album puts it firmly into the traditional category, yet the greater proportion of the songs are from relatively modern sources. Hector has taken songs from writers including Brian McNeill, Colum Sands, Alan Reid and Ian McCalman and stamped his own personality on them. Such is the way that great songs enter the tradition.
If we had a star system Iíd give this 5 stars for an English audience and 4 and three quarters for a Scottish one. And this isnít meant to be a serious criticism, more a comment that this voice deserves to be heard more in Scotland, together with a thinly veiled plea for him to come home for a visit at least. At times the accent is slightly too refined, something which may have come from a need to make himself understood in southern climes. This is illustrated most in the contrast between his singing on Turn Ye To Me and the more natural expression on the following track, Lay The Bent Tae The Bonnie Broom. Iím not sure how appreciated Hector is in his adopted home, but there is a gap back in Scotland that this album neatly fills.
I could make a similar comment about the accompaniment, but almost in reverse. I once saw Jonny Dyer and Vicki Swan performing live and was transfixed by Jonnyís guitar playing. The only criticism I could level, although none was really needed, was that somehow the sound of the guitar through the PA was too perfect Ė it missed that slightly rough edge that differentiates the fiddle player from the violinist. On this album the sound is just wonderful. Credit is probably due in part to Doug Baileyís magic in the studio, but the glorious sound has to be there in the first place.
The choice of Jonny Dyer and Vicki Swan as accompanists is an inspired one. They bring a range of instruments and a total sympathy with the singer and the songs. Adding Moira Craig on vocal harmony completes a package that surely moves this album into the classic and required listening categories. Do your ears a favour and give this one a listen.