From the world of busy factories, crowded streets, tenement and public houses, come these five songs of Glasgow, sung by young twenty-two-year-old Robin Hall.
An itinerant folk singer, or as he prefers to be called, "a singer of folk songs", he has learned much of his large repertoire from their original sources; the factories and docklands of his home town Glasgow, and the farms and villages around the countryside of Scotland.
In his travels and search for songs, Robin has worked at many jobs ranging from farms to factories, and remained in each only until such time as he had absorbed the local folklore.
Robin started his musical career, as so many young people do today, by playing jazz, which gave him an interest in American Negro folk music. However, he has folklorist Hamish Henderson, from the Edinburgh University School of Scottish Studies, to thank" for his present interest in Scottish folk music. Hamish showed him the wealth of song that was his own heritage, and indeed, taught him many songs from his own vast collection.
Whilst Robin has a great liking for the "Muckle Sangs" or "Big Ballads" of Scotland, his love lies with the songs of "Dirty auld Glasca" which, even to this day, are constantly being made and absorbed into the folk tradition of Scotland. Such are the five songs presented on this record. You can hear "Lodgin' wi' big Aggie" or "Yer ma wee gallas bloke naemair" (gallas meaning smart alec), wafting out many a pub door in Glasgow on a Saturday night. Many's the "wean" that's been sung to sleep by the wee lullaby "Coulther's Candy", and although the beautiful "Bleacher Lassie O' Kelvinhaugh", and the saucy "Dundee Weaver" do have other versions throughout Scotland, Robin sings them here in true Glasgow fashion.
Sleeve Notes (Excerpts)
Robert Burns was born in Ayr, Scotland, on the 25th January, 1759. In the thirty six years which followed, he was responsible for the authorship of over six hundred songs and poems, not to mention his prose works-mostly letters- and the collecting and faithful setting down of hundreds of Scots ballads-one contribution alone was responsible for nearly two volumes of James Johnson's celebrated Scots Musical Museum, a work long recognised by folk singers and collectors alike, as being the first really authentic authority on Scotland's folklore.
The son of a poor farmer, James Burness. his education, and that of his brother Gilbert, was entrusted to a Mr. Murdoch, a teacher with an active hatred of the oppression which Robert Burns was to fight so bitterly for the rest of his life. Murdoch succeeded-to a great extent-in satisfying the young man's appetite for good reading of every description, and in later life we find the great Bard as much at home with Plato as with William Shakespeare. Nor did he have much time for those as would keep books on their premises for the sake of room and position adornment, for he sees a volume of Shakespeare on a Lord's bookcase, and is heard to remark;
"Through and through th' inspir'd leaves,
Ye maggots make your windings;
But O respect his Lordship's taste,
And spare the golden bindings."
To a man in Burns position-who at one time shook with fear lest he be allowed to die in the debtor's prison for the sake of five pounds-the wilful waste of even one readable book, was, to him, nothing short of criminal. So too, with the songs of his people. Carefully, meticulously so, he sifted through them, recording them as they stood for posterity where possible, and where that was not possible, re-writing them in their original sense, without ever once losing their meaning. This is the hall-mark of the true folk-collector; this was the ability of the master ploughman of Ayr who shook the "chaff into time's withering wind", and handed on and down a heritage of which any Scotsman can be proud. Cecil Sharpe, Francis Child, Gavan Grieg, none of them ever "dared" to "tamper" with what they collected. All of them have been praised for this "quality" by most of our present day excursionists into the "Folk" world, with the result that young, mistaken singers, are faced with the unwelcome task of sifting through countless pages of dross before they can come across a gem. Sometimes the pearl gets lost, for there are more pompous oysters sleeping in the sea, filled with wind and water than ever cultivated a glittering stone.
Burns died on July the 21st, 1796, at the age of thirty six years.
Robin Hall is a young singer from Glasgow, with a natural and graceful voice capable of giving full expression to the varying emotions of the songs on this record. His simple yet thoughtful guitar accompaniments, successfully underline the melodies and feelings of the songs. Robin has real affection for Scotland and its traditions.
PAUL CARTER (Folksong Unlimited)