It was a Monday night about a year ago, when I walked into one of Edinburgh's folk clubs. The room was large, smoky and rather noisy. I ordered a drink and sat down. About ten minutes later three boys walked on stage with three pints, two guitars, a penny whistle and a room full of harmony. The crowd suddenly quietened and I sat back to enjoy what turned out to be one of the best folk nights I have ever spent. This was my first encounter with Ian, Derek and Hamish, "The Ian McCalman Folk Group", so when they asked me to write the sleeve notes for their first LP, I jumped at the chance, having long since enjoyed their work.
"The McCalmans", as their friends call them, have created a group unity and so to write about them individually would be folly. Musically they think as one and play as one which I think is the reason for their unique interpretation of folk music. They can sing the strong contemporary song "Sally Free and Easy" with as much ease as the African chant, "Quaheri" and still dominate their repertoire with Scottish traditional music.
When I asked Ian what they hoped to achieve in folk music, he said, "The work we put into it we enjoy — the rest will look after itself". Folk enthusiasts from Scotland and abroad have been enjoying their singing for 2 years, and now with their voices on wax, a larger audience will hear and appreciate this 3 in 1 McCalman sound.
Put on the record, adjust the volume, then sit back and enjoy three singers "All in one mind".
SALLY FREE AND EASY — A beautiful song written by Cyril Tawney showing how a contemporary piece of music can exploit a traditional theme.
GALA WATER — A beautiful traditional air from the Scottish Borders written in praise of the "Bonny lass o' Gala Water".
QUAHERI — A nostalgic Swahili song collected by Hamish in Kenya. It is widely sung by the African in mourning for his homestead and family, when he goes to work in the big cities. Quaheri is the traditional word of farewell.
FAREWELLTO FUINARY — Fuinary, has come to symbolise home in the heart of the Highlander. This song is frequently sung at the breaking-up of social gatherings in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
COCAINE BLUES — A complete breakaway from the rest of the material on this LP in sound and sentiment. This version reflects our condemnation of drug taking and our pity for those people whose minds it slowly destroys.
DOO ME AMA — By fair means or foul "Jack Tar will always gain his'desire'".
DO LET ME GO — This lively capstan shanty illustrates the predominance of chorus over verse, common to most working songs.
SANTIANO — Although this old shanty was originally sung in admiration of the Mexican general, Santa, shantymen over the years have corrupted the verses, until now the chorus is all that remains of the original form.
OFF TO SEA — The familiar lament of a lonely sailor whose adventures with the girls ashore force him back to sea.
NORTH COUNTRY FARMER — Old age bows to a frolicsome young wife!
BOLD TENANT FARMER — Injustice to the commoner has traditionally bred good folk songs throughout the world. In IreIand they can always sing these songs with "spirit".
PLAINS OF WATERLOO — Some people overlook the fact that ScotIand was represented at the Battle of Waterloo. This song was reputedly written by Jack Robertson a bugler in the 92nd Highlanders in 1815.
HOMEWARD BOUND — Most English harbours boast a version of this song. It illustrates the sailor's traditional love of alcohol and a woman's even more traditional love of his "six months' pay".
PACE EGGING SONG — An English ceremonial song the chorus of which inspired the title of our record —
"Here's one two three jolly lads
All in one mind…"