21st Century Reviews

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

23 December 2010

Hugh Morrison - Robert Burns Rocks

Button accordion maestro Hugh Morrison has recently turned his attention to vocal duties. He's just taken over as lead vocalist for his band Murder the Stout. And on this solo album, Morrison's raw but endearing vocals are given a starring role.

This is a tribute album that celebrates the words of great Scottish poet, Robert Burns. There have been a few musical tributes to Burns in recent years, including a multi-disc set to which Alistair Hulett and many other significant folk artists contributed. Those tributes did not rock like this one does! Backed by a multitude of talented musicians - including Murder the Stout's rhythm section and members of punk band the Street Dogs - Hugh makes the stories, ballads and rebellious verse of Robert Burns come to life.

'Leezy Lindsay' is a roaring opener, with Morrison cranking up the button accordion to make it heard over the punchy two-step beat. A great thumping bass sound propels this song, taking it menacingly into punk rock territory. 'Ye Jacobites By Name' and 'Scots Wha Hae' have a wild snarling quality about them, too. On other tunes like 'Rantin' Rovin' Robin' and 'Ye Banks and Braes', Judi Nicolson's fiddle and the sweet vocals of Aoife Ni Ghloinn add a tenderness and fragility.

Being a Hugh Morrison project, you can expect the musicianship here to be first-rate. On the two instrumental tracks, the musicians have the best opportunity to shine. 'Red Red Rose' is an absolutely beautiful piece, on which the stirring fiddle (Nicolson) and keyboards (Kendall Rogers) combine with that button accordion to take you back to another time and place. The more upbeat 'Burns Reels' takes four tunes and joins them seamlessly.

The album's fitting finale is our drunken New Year's Eve favourite, 'Auld Lang Syne'. This version hits really hard. Not since Roaring Jack attacked it on their legendary New Year's Eve gigs have I heard 'Auld Lang Syne' played with such energy and passion. The guitars are truly turned up all the way to 11, and there's no better way to close the album.

I can't picture Hugh Morrison singing these songs while clutching a Robert Burns anthology anxiously in front of him. It certainly sounds like Morrison has lived with the poetry of Burns and that the words come from both his head and his heart. A fine album that can only be a successful attempt to bring Burns to a new generation.

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