21st Century Reviews

You liked Roaring Jack, you might like some of the recent releases reviewed here!

25 February 2008

Hugh Morrison - Under A Texas Skye (ACM Records, 2007)

In which Hugh Morrison steps out from the shadows of Murder The Stout (see review elsewhere in these pages) and into the limelight as a band leader. Former Glaswegian Hugh (or Shuggie, as they'd call him in Glasgow) plays button accordion, wringing out a sound different from that of the piano accordion which dominates a lot of Celtic-inspired music. Backed by a small combo playing piano, cello, guitar, banjo and occasional percussion, Morrison presents an album of music far removed from the raucous strains of his other band.

While Murder The Stout tends to favour Irish drinking songs, Hugh demonstrates undeniably Scottish folk influences Under A Texas Skye. There are some traditional Scottish tunes like 'Burns' Farewell', 'Atholl Highlanders' and 'Mary of Skye', and a great version of the Robert Burns song 'McPherson's Rant' (also recorded recently by Aussie favourites the Go Set). But running right through the album is a Texan flavour as well. Hugh Morrison has lived in Texas for a few years, and the Americana influences shine through in tracks such as 'Red River Valley'. Even some of Hugh's own compositions, like 'Made In Texas', show that he has his feet planted firmly in a new homeland.

About half the tracks feature Hugh's button accordion over a bed of piano, making for quite a pleasant, relaxing sound. A bodhran comes thumping in gently at times, sometimes too gently for these ears! What works best, though, is Hugh steaming into 'Old Pipe Reel' and 'Ale Is Dear' (both on a track called 'Minor Reels') with full accompaniment.

Special mention goes to Hugh's lead vocalist Jed Marum, who turns in great performances on 'Come By The Hills', 'McPherson's Rant' and 'Red River Valley'. And commendations on what is for me the centrepiece of the album, Hugh's own composition 'Dun Eistein'. This is a beautiful tune dedicated to the place of that name on the Isle of Lewis, and traditional home to the Clan Morrison. A mighty track that's a soundtrack waiting to happen.


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