Sleeve notes have always struck me as being far too earnest and relevant and would be far better written by. someone outside the business; a passer-by, for instance, who should not only be a complete stranger but also, preferably literate. A good example would be a solicitor. They are both strange and literate. Well, most of the ones I know are. Such a person would have no axe to grind and probably no record- player either, his sole musical affiliations would be strictly Radio 3. His completely biased opinion would not be qualified by scintilla of knowledge of production methods, musical research, descant of PRS. But would it be a success? Time will tell, for such a chance has come my way, although any similarity between myself and the aforementioned passer-by is quite coincidental.
As an outsider, a punter, if you like, I will give you my own partisan opinion both of the Group and their songs. First the Group: They are simply the best Group in their field. Tight harmonies, new arrangements of traditional songs, visual and verbal humour of insight and wit and a distinctive sound which drives a sure path between blue comedy at one end of the scale and the fay falsettos which so assail our ears from all directions at the other, yet avoiding both with ease and confidence. Audiences, of which l am one of the more consequential, flock to see them all over Europe and, if you have bought this album, no doubt you will too.
The title "Best of The McCalmans" is perfectly opposite because the tracks have been selected by the Group themselves with their usual self-criticism. They have chosen a complete spectrum of songs, from the traditional "Sheriff Muir" and "Johnnie Cope" to the modem plaintive "Farewell to Sicily". They have humour in "Nagasaki" "Sweeter than Sugar" and "She thought that she had lost it at the Astor" whose unaccompanied close-harmony contrasts with the pure instrumentals of the Jigs and Reels. Join to that the love song "Kora" and the singalong "Doon in the Wee Room" and finish up with two giants "Burn the Witch" and "Smuggler": the title songs of the two previous albums, and you have an example of the very best of all they can produce.
Unusually for a trio where enthusiasm is sometimes confused with expertise, each of their voices is both distinctive and of high quality in its own right and quite capable of taking the solo lead. The mellifluous guitars of Ian and Derek are the perfect foil for the virtuoso mandolin, whistle and concertina playing of Hamish, one of the finest exponents of all three instruments in the business.