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Claire Proetti of Whats Afoot

reviews Days O' Grace by Hector Gilchrist

This recording of mainly Scottish material will appeal to those who like traditional music presented in an interesting and pleasant style. Hector has a beautiful tenor voice and is ably supported on vocals by Vicki Swan and Moira Craig. Instrumental accompaniment is provided by Hector himself on guitar, and also Jonny Dyer (guitar, accordion and piano) and Vicki Swan (flute, pipes, nyckelharpas and double bass).

Track one, my personal favourite, is `The Trysting Fair' at Falkirk a rousing song telling of the famous Falkirk agricultural fair, with lovely harmonies and a beautiful flute introduction and instrumental. Hector's warm tone is perfect for this song. `The Gowden Locks o'Anna' is a defiant song by Robert Burns telling of his feelings for one of his many lovers, again a gentle and beautiful rendition, with a sweet flute instrumental.

`Turn Ye Tae Me' is a haunting tune,with a well chosen pipe accompaniment in this version while `Lay the Bent to the Bonny Broom' is another take on this well known song, with its sad tale and memorable chorus. `The Glassmakers Hand' is a modern and interesting song by Colum Sands about the art of glass making with an excellent guitar accompaniment. `Just a Boy' has a fine double bass solo, while `Strong and Faithful' is a new song written for the gathering of the Clan Maclachlan from Strathlachlan, another stirring song which I enjoyed. It tells the story of the clan, Jacobite supporters, who suffered great losses at Culloden and forfeited their lands, but eventually returned to Chieftainship. It has a good accompaniment on the pipes.

`The Shian Road' is a lovely song written by Ian McCalman as a tribute to his father. It has a beautiful flute accompaniment and a great vocal harmony. `John Condon', a First World War song is appropriate in this 2014 recording, telling the poignant story of the death of a fourteen year old Irish boy in the British army, reiterating the cruelty and futility of that terrible conflict, while `The Menzies Tree', with another beautiful flute accompaniment, was poignant for me, having spent much time in and around Menzies land and castle near Aberfeldy. The unaccompanied rendition of `Willie's Drooned in Yarrow' really shows the quality of Hector's tenor voice. `Faraway Tom' written by Dave Goulder, with a lovely piano accompaniment, is a slow and gentle song about a country dwelling eccentric, while `Traiveller's Joy', a very enjoyable song with a good chorus, tells the story of a young traveller lass who declines a potential suitor's advances whilst working on the Shira Dam project near Inveraray. The `Lang Road Hame' is an evocative love song written by Hector himself, from which the CD title is taken, whilst the last track, `Scotland', a tribute to the country itself, is from a poem by Sir Alexander Grey adapted into a song, with the chorus verse now etched on the wall of the present Scottish Parliament.

This CD is a thoroughly enjoyable and varied selection of material which will surely appeal to a wide audience, but particularly those who enjoy traditional Scottish music. The standard of musicianship throughout is very high, with well chosen harmonies and a wide variety of instrumental accompaniments.