Saturday, 16 July 2011

*Dick Gaughan Milngavie Folk Club June 2011

Dick Gaughan is a Scottish traditional folk singer and guitarist, a songwriter, composer and record producer. He sings of Scottish heroes and of stories of our lost past and long forgotten voices.  Gaughan has been playing the circuits both at home and abroad for many years now. He is a legend among folk circles and also one of the most down-to-earth and likeable artists without pretensions of any kind.  
I arrived early at the venue and met Gaughan and he seemed to know me from his last visit here. He spoke of playing with Emmylou Harris and what a nice person she was.

Gaughan sang Burn's Now Westlin Winds, his favourite songs of all time; a traditional song re-interpreted by Gaughan Both Sides The Tweed;  What You Do With What You've Got, the best opening song (Si Kahn);  Thomas Muir of Huntershill; Why Old Men Cry; No God and Precious Few Heroes (Brian MacNeill); Song For Ireland; Huntershill. He also played a powerful guitar instrumental and a song by the Scottish poet Hamish Henderson. 

He wondered on No God and Precious Few Heroes (Brian MacNeill) whether we have forgotten the protest voices of the 60s and sang - 'Whatever happened to ' We Shall Overcome' and 'What Are We Fighting For'.  On Why Old Men Cry he told of how he had felt connected to his paternal grandfather while visiting the first World War graveyards in Germany. His grandfather had died when he was half Gaughan's age from mustard gas poisoning and he connected this to the faces he remembered well as a child.  Now, he said, he understood the sadness in the eyes of old miners. 

There is an urgency and force about Gaughan's music as if he feels strongly he has important messages to get off his chest in his music. Gaughan searches below the surface of songs. He plays open chords on guitar and his playing is melodic and strongly emotive.  His voice has a poignant edge and is both harsh and deep in tone and it hits home hard. The words of his songs ring true and with his opening song 'What You Do With What You've Got (which he said he would keep as his opening song until he found a better one) he sang - 

Its' not just what you're born with, but what you do with what you've got.
What's the use of two strong legs, if you only run away.
And what use is the finest voice if you've nothing good to say?
What's the use of two good ears, if you don't hear those you love.
Words & Music : Si Kahn

He sang not of resolutions but of holding on to your vision. Gaughan was warmly received and seemed to enjoy the gig. I felt that his substance, refreshing honesty and questioning words must have impacted on the younger members of the audience.  On the older ones too!  

Now Westlin Winds (Written by Robert Burns as sung by Dick Gaughan)
Now westlin winds and slaughtering guns
Bring autumn's pleasant weather
The moorcock springs on whirring wings
Among the blooming heather
Now waving grain, wild o'er the plain
Delights the weary farmer
And the moon shines bright as I rove at night
To muse upon my charmer
The partridge loves the fruitful fells
The plover loves the mountain
The woodcock haunts the lonely dells
The soaring hern the fountain
Through lofty groves the cushat roves
The path of man to shun it
The hazel bush o'erhangs the thrush
The spreading thorn the linnet
Thus every kind their pleasure find
The savage and the tender
Some social join and leagues combine
Some solitary wander
Avaunt! Away! the cruel sway,
Tyrannic man's dominion
The sportsman's joy, the murdering cry
The fluttering, gory pinion
But Peggy dear the evening's clear
Thick flies the skimming swallow
The sky is blue, the fields in view
All fading green and yellow
Come let us stray our gladsome way
And view the charms of nature
The rustling corn, the fruited thorn
And every happy creature
We'll gently walk and sweetly talk
Till the silent moon shines clearly
I'll grasp thy waist and, fondly pressed,
Swear how I love thee dearly
Not vernal showers to budding flowers
Not autumn to the farmer
So dear can be as thou to me
My fair, my lovely charmer

What You Do With What You've Got  ( Music and Words by Si Kahn as sung by Dick Gaughan)

You must know someone like him
He was tall and strong and lean
With a body like a greyhound
And a mind so sharp and keen
But his heart, just like a laurel,
Grew twisted round itself
Till almost every thing he did
Caused pain to someone else
It's not just what you're born with
It's what you choose to bear
It's not how big your share is
But how much you can share
And it's not the fights you dreamed of
But those you really fought
It's not what you've been given
It's what you do with what you've got
Now what's the good of two strong legs
If you only run away?
And what use is the finest voice
If you've nothing good to say?
And what good is strength and muscle
If you only push and shove?
And what's the use of two good ears
If you can't hear those you love?
Between those who use their neighbours
And those who use a cane
Between those in constant power
And those in constant pain
Between those who run to evil
And those who cannot run
Tell me which ones are the cripples
And which ones touch the sun?

Dick Gaughan Photo gallery -
Dick singing Burn's Westlin Winds, his favourite song.  

Gaughan was born in Glasgow and was raised in Leith Edinburgh. His mother was a Highland Scot, his father a generation away from Ireland. From childhood, he was immersed in Scots and Irish musical traditions by both sides of his family. Gaughan is a national treasure. He is a world weary traveller of stories and music.