|Mary Macmaster, Patsy Seddon|
Songs of Defiance and social conscience and an evening of contrast, quality, and sincerity
Gaughan has become something of a legend on the Scottish and world folk circuits for more than 40 years. He is an interpreter of Scotland’s traditional folk songs with his distinctive style of guitar playing, with open chords and timing that he learnt from guitarist Davey Graham. Fans beside me had heard Gaughan over in California.
The concert was a tribute to Gaughan’s authenticity. He cares about the truth of things and of digging below the surface for stories behind the songs. We live in shallow times, where false greed and facades matter more than being open hearted or honest. Gaughan is not only angry – he was furious at injustice and he spoke and sang of this with unequalled passions. In-between songs, while tuning his guitar Gaughan, would tell his stories.
Tonight’s performers sang political and social songs of the poor state of things – that tell of Grenfell tower monument to greed and selfishness, Aberfan disaster, miners strikes, Jute mill songs, Niel Gow’s fiddle. Where are the young voices of protest today?
**The concert was a celebration of the music and politics that matters to Gaughan. Host Elaine C Smith sang Michael Marra’s Mother Glasgow, and introduced an incomparable line-up of Gaughan’s long time friends and collaborators.
The Wilson Family sang Baker Hil - “close the mineshaft door” - and other songs, with powerful male harmonies. The accomplished guitarists Tony McManus and Martin Simpson paid tribute and Simpson performed Bob Dylan’s Blind Willie McTell and other songs. Karine Polwart sang Craigie Hill’ and told the moving story of being given Dick’s album a Handful of Earth the night before her grandfather’s funeral - a song about immigration and leaving. The Bevvy Sisters sang Marra’s Like Another Rolling Stone. Mary Macmaster, Patsy Seddon sang Gaelic songs (Clan Alba) .
Dougie MacLean closed this very special evening with a moving climax with his song This love Will Carry. Gaughan, who has has been ill the past year appeared on stage to a standing ovation. I was glad he had been persuaded him to appear for his devoted fans and that he didn’t remain a ‘presence’ behind the curtain. Dick said he hoped to be back to sing next year for us and we hoped too!
I first heard Gaughan back in the 80s at an Edinburgh folk club and I have met him at Milngavie folk club and he is always friendly and unassuming. He would open his set with the Si Kahn song, What you Do With What You’ve got. I’ve heard many folk singers live and Gaughan is by miles the most moving and powerful. Like Dylan, he doesn’t smooth over the Big Issues of our time,
I took my guitarist son a few years back to hear him and he was hugely impressed. I will always remember sitting enthralled to this Westlin Winds, his impassioned and defining interpretation of the Robert Burns song, when he would say, “One of the best songs ever written, it says all there is to say. Certainly an Outlaw and Dreamer like no other!
Did anyone record a full set I wondered with his chat between songs? Folk singers know the depth of things – as Dylan wrote – Folk songs were my guide to a new republic.’
Maybe he is, but Gaughan should write his thoughts for a book. Like Burns and Dylan before him Dick trawled the archives in the national library for the rich tapestry of the old ballads and brought many back to life. His personal heritage mixes Celtic traditions of both Ireland and the Scottish Islands.
(Clan Alba, A folk supergroup, featured Dick Gaughan. Mary Macmaster, Brian MacNeill, Fred Morrison, Patsy Seddon, Davy Steele, Mike Travis and Dave Tulloch. With guitars, harps, pipes, fiddles and percussion, and distinctive collective harmonies. Their 1996 debut album - included ‘Bye Bye Big Blue’, a lament for the closure of the Ravenscraig Steel Works, and Gaughan’s evocative ‘Childhood’s End’.)