It is appropriate that this should be the first album I review since Alistair Hulett’s sudden passing in January 2010. Sands of Aberdeen is a heady mix of traditional music from Ireland, Scotland and North America that Alistair would have truly appreciated. After all, Alistair’s music had headed in a similar direction over the last five to ten years of his life.
Texan singer/guitarist Jed Marum is joined here by Hugh Morrison (Murder the Stout) on accordions and Mason Brown on banjo and pardessus viol. The songs have a real live feel that, for a totally acoustic outfit, leaps right out from the speakers. Jed, Hugh and Mason rip into a combination of originals, covers and traditional songs from both sides of the Atlantic. The title track is a Jed Marum original that’s propelled by a driving bluegrass-sounding guitar/mandolin riff. The accordion and tin whistle add haunting tones to a wistful song about a lover lost at sea. The three Marum originals are complemented by traditional songs and covers by modern songwriters. Phil Coulter’s ‘The Town I Loved So Well’ is given respectful treatment here, and the boys put a lot of love into the two Brian McNeill songs, ‘The Rock and the Tide’ and ‘The Belles of Ontario’.
Of the traditional songs, ‘Down by the Glenside’ (also known as ‘Bold Fenian Men’), ‘Broom of the Cowdenknowes’ and ‘Star of the County Down’ stand out for their passion and energy.
Hugh Morrison and Mason Brown shine on the instrumental medleys, ‘Lovely Leah’ and ‘Willie Coleman – Tune Set’, helped out by guest players David Shaw (upright bass), Pete Dawson (Irish flute) and Curly Boy Stubbs (guitar). On other tracks, Jaime Marum contributes a glistening mandolin sound. The way the players gel is at times stunning.
Jed Marum’s vocals are strong and stirring throughout Sands of Aberdeen, and the musicianship is dazzling. Jed, Hugh and Mason are now playing together as Lonestar Stout, so keep an eye out for their next album!