12 brand new tracks from the Bairns, recorded at Castlesound Studios by Stuart Hamilton.
Some folks say it's the best yet. You can hear MP3 sample tracks by clicking the links below. Then order it from MusicScotland.
Cover artwork from painting 'A9, Night' by Kate Downie
WHILE its title could be a wry acknowledgement of their less-than-prolific output over the years – a grand total of four albums since 1980 – the latest from Jock Tamson’s Bairns in fact follows relatively hard on the heels of its predecessor, 2001’s May Ye Never Lack A Scone.
Beloved for their scrupulous avoidance of grandstanding and gimmickry, the Bairns have been known since their inception as a benchmark of taste, sensitivity and quietly authoritative musicianship. Not that this implies any shortfall of fun, mischief or vitality, as is made clearer than ever on Rare – and right from the word go, with a funkily upbeat version of the drinking ballad Blythe Blythe And Merry Was She, sung with typical resonant fluency by Rod Paterson. In the first of the album’s many adroit contrasts, this gives way to a delicate slow air, Scotch Cap, while the second sees this tune seguing into a trio of lively dance numbers, brimful of sparkle and finesse.
These opening two tracks essentially set the tone for the rest of the album, showcasing an alignment of instrumental timbres – including the fiddle, concertina, guitar, whistles, jaw harp, baritone fiddle and bodhran – that’s as judicious and sure-handed as the band’s choice of material, together with Scots singing, from Paterson and John Croall, as good as you’ll hear anywhere.
An apt choice of title from a group that would appear to have an aversion to the recording studio, given that their last release, ‘May Ye Never Lack a Scone’, in 2001 was their first, excluding re-releases, since 1983. But good things are worth the wait, and this CD makes that point emphatically.
With many groups, an observation that they still sound the same as they did four years ago would be taken as a criticism, but with the Bairns the converse holds true. The singing, the playing, the harmonies and the sheer undiluted quality remain as the benchmark for any others who aspire to understand and convey traditional Scottish music in its finest guise.
I suppose that it’s one of the advantages of having performed together for so long that all the members of the band just know what the others are going to do – they have a feeling for the harmonies which will work, they instinctively understand what gladdens the listeners’ ears and hearts, and then they get on and do it. No fuss, no frills, just a natural ability to get inside the meaning of a song and present it as it should be. Yet, despite all this easy familiarity, there remains the freshness of approach which gives that typical Bairns’ sound, with voices and instrumentation layering lightly and innovatively.
The selection is, as ever, well-balanced, with a blend of familiar and lesser-known songs and tune sets both traditional and contemporary, which all allow the individual members to excel in their own ways. Proof, if any was needed, that this really is one of the finest groups ever.
A case of rare being exceptionally well-done!
With almost 20 years between their second and third album, a mere four years waiting for their fourth is less than we had reason to fear. And yes, the line up is the same as last time, Derek Hoy, John Croall, Ian Hardie, Rod Paterson and Norman Chalmers, five out of six who made the classic The Lasses Fashion in the early 1980s. For those of you too young to have memories of this I can tell you it is one of my favourite albums of all time and contains my absolute favourite album track of all time, "Lady Keith's Lament." If you add that the legendary folk'n'swingsters The Easy Club were born out of the original Jock Tamson's Bairns you can sense high expectations building up here. So the big question is, does the new album meet those expectations?
It starts off with the song "Blythe Blythe and Merry Was She," sung by Paterson, and from the first bar you know these men mean serious business. Rocking might not be the word to use, but it is a very rhythmic track, with the jaw harp used to great effect. A track that would not have been out of place neither on The Lasses Fashion nor on an Easy Club album.
There are six songs in all on the album, each one a gem. Croall sings "The Fause Knight on the Road," a version of the song recorded twice by Steeleye Span. The Bairns add a bit of musical mystic to it, with some intriguing rhythms. Paterson is back for "The Bonnie Earl O' Moray." It is a piece of cross-cultural thinking with Scottish lyrics married to a Swedish song tune. Slow and majestic, with beautiful harmonies by Croall and Hardie.
Croall takes the lead on "Aye Waukin' O," a song attributed to Robert Burns. Once again it is a slow, emotional song, with simple but effective guitar picking to back the vocals. "The Soor Milk Cairt" is a lovely ditty composed by Tom Johnston in the 1880s. If you have ever wondered how a verse would sound only accompanied by a harmonica and a triangle, here is your chance to find out. The closing "The Bogend Hairst" starts like an old country ballad, with guitar and harmonica, but after a few bars it turns into one of those slow Scottish songs Paterson masters so well.
Six songs, half the album. The other six are instrumentals, with the Bairns showing they both master the fast and lively reels as in the set starting with "Da Grocer" and the jazzy Easy Club-styled backings in "Coire Mhic Fhearchair." But in my book they are at their best when they slow down and go for the airs. "Scotch Cap" is a perfect example, as is "Baba Mo Leonabh."
I never really took to the last album, May You Never Lack a Scone, but after hearing this I think it is time to go back and check again. Cause Rare is really something special. Maybe not quite another "The Lasses Fashion," but almost. Had they been 25 years younger we would have hailed them as the new Messiahs of Scottish folk, now we just get proof that these lads know their craft and that they still can deliver the goods.
That great company, Greentrax of Scotland, has given us yet another winner. This company has done a terrific job of highlighting Scottish music in all its forms. One of Scotland's favorite groups is Jock Tamson's Bairns. The new album is titled, Rare. A lovely combination of instrumentals and songs from this talented quintet. Some really great stuff. Lovers of Scottish music are already familiar with this group, formed in the 70's. Hopefully, an album like Rare will spread their fame. Scottish trad is very similar and very different from Irish trad. Lovely. Like the Irish, the Scots can pound 'em out with the best----and many musicians over the years have told me that the Scots "show the way" in waltzes and airs. We believe it. This album would make a great intro to Scottish trad and folk. Highly recommended!
The Bairns retired back in 1983 and stayed away for 12 years. Then, in 1995, they re-emerged and in subsequent years produced some more great music. On the return the fans got a bargain of two earlier albums on one CD and then, in 2001, they produced a new album. Not ones to rush into things, they have left us waiting four years for this CD -- but the wait is worth it.
Again we get a mixture of top-class instrumentals combined with some beautiful songs. In the main, their output is traditional but this is Jock Tamson's Bairns traditional. That is, they give us a new take on songs and tunes that may have grown familiar.
Their version of that old old song "The Fause Knicht on the Road" -- false knight for all non-Scots -- is one of the best of the modern renditions.
We all are familiar with the song "The Bonnie Earl of Moray," but listen to it on this CD and expect a revelation. The notes inform us that the new air is from a traditional Swedish ballad. It may upset the purist but it produces a great song and shows again the appellation world music when attached to folk can be true.
My favourite track on the album is a set that opens with the fantastic "The Grave of the Unknown Clansman," a wonderful slow air. Another good song is the marvelously titled "The Soor Milk Cart." It is said to be a true tale of romance from the 1880s.
This album is certainly well titled. It is a rare treat of excellent songs and tunes to delight Scots and everyone else.
I don’t know what I was expecting but it certainly wasn’t the jaws harp intro to ‘Blythe Blythe And Merry Was She’. But then again the Bairns are nothing if not inventive. Having been weaned on their music many years ago some things I’m pleased to say don’t change and Rod Paterson’s distinctive vocals are one of them. There are many singers from Scotland that unfortunately cross the boundaries of taste with performances that are too abrasive cutting into your very soul but you certainly don’t get any of that from Mr Paterson. There’s an assured tone that is pleasant without being brittle. Now, although I’ ve heard the song performed before, the clever use of multi-layered vocals as a round proves particularly effective and the use of baritone fiddle courtesy of Derek Hoy is hauntingly provocative. I don’t know why but the band’s general sound on this track comes across as not dissimilar to that of the pub band featured in the film The Whickerman (you’ll have to buy the album yourself to see what I mean). Years ago I used to love listening to the soundtracks of film productions by Walt Disney and Ealing that utilised the visual splendour of Scottish landscapes as visual accompaniment to stirring music. Well, this is the audio equivalent and a man can wallow in nostalgia every now and then can’t he? On the tune set ‘McFarquhar’s Corrie’ the lilting, almost lazy jazz chords on guitar underpinning the beautiful melody on the low whistle are quite simply exquisite allowing you the opportunity to chill out in style. All of the music is impeccably arranged and between them John Croall (bodhran, bones etc), Norman Chalmers (concertina) and Ian Hardie (fiddle) create a glorious tapestry of sound that will leave the listener wanting for more. This recording should be in every self-respecting folk enthusiast’s collection.
Not rare, as in collectible cuts; rare as in braw or, as Michael Marra's splendid Bairns eulogy on the liner says, "the new cool". These 12 newly recorded tracks represent one of Scottish traditional music's enduring treasures as they are now: older, wiser, more calloused and careworn, yet still looking to create fresh harmonic voicings, different versions of old songs and new tunes true to the Scottish style. If it doesn't have quite the same warmth of their past glories, the Bairns' sound still has the power to charm through John Croall's gleeful bumpkin and Rod Paterson's suaver singing styles – on The Soor Milk Cairt and Bonnie Earl O' Moray respectively – and a blend of fiddles, guitar, concertina, bodhran, bones, jaw harp and triangle that is rare as in one-of-a-kind.