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Tony ONeill of Shire Folk

reviews Days O' Grace by Hector Gilchrist

'tho I mind o the days o sun and sang, days o grace by Kyles braw strands the evening gowd oer Aran's bens ..: (extract from 'Lang Road Hame; originally a poem by Hector quoted on the cover of the CD). It's 50 years since Hector headed south in 1961 with an eclectic song bag and this is Hector's fourth album on the WiIdGoose label, containing mainly Scottish material which now forms the basis of his live performances. He is accompanied on the recording by Vicki Swan, Jonny Dyer and Moira Craig. A formidable trio!

Hector's voice is a light tenor that well suits the material, being of a lighter, sentimental sort and making for a gentle, unchallenging listen, but a voice which nevertheless rings out with a bell sharp clarity that cuts through the brogue. This is aided and abetted by the lightly administered, but superbly performed, backing vocals and music.

The material is a balanced mix of traditional written and self penned, ranging from Burns, 'The Gowden Locks o' Anna’; border ballads, 'Lay the Bent tae the Bonny Broom' and 'Willie's Drowned in Yarrow’; love songs such as 'Traiveller's Joy’; the obligatory First World War story, but still a beautiful one, ‘John Condon', telling of a young Irish soldier who lost his life in Belgium in the slaughter of 1915, and so on.

Amongst the fourteen tracks,'Bonny Broom' and John Condon'stood out for me.

The package has dramatic photographs of a sunset silhouetting the Isle of Arran with a pull out booklet giving a brief explanation of each song.