Scotland has given many things to mankind and if we seem to have colonised the world the world must forgive us. We have been particularly generous with our songs, sending their influential melodies and rhythms into the folk cultures of many lands. In recent years it is possible to argue that the success of Scottish folk-singers on radio and television, the most persuasive of all the mass — communication media has been the major factor in bringing a vast new audience to the sort of folk-song recital from which these recordings were taken. One has to think only of Ewan MacColl's prize-winning radio ballads, Rory and Alex McEwen blazing the trail on "To-night," succeeded by Robin Hall and Jimmie Macgregor, followed up fast by the Corrie Folk Trio and Paddie Bell as the resident group on a highly successful network series on BBC TV.
As it happens these recordings were made before "The Hoot'nanny Show" appeared on television and planned long before that. For over a decade hoot'nanny has been the traditional title for a folk-song sing-around. But, inevitably, all the artists on this disc and many of the songs have appeared on the television show. And of course the audience, an integral part of any folksong performance, also comes from Edinburgh. We can thank the Edinburgh Festival and its basement sideshows for the fact that the Scottish capital now ranks with Liverpool and Greenwich Village as one of the capitals of the folk world.
The Corrie Folk Trio and Paddie Bell, led by Bill Smith, begin Side 1 with that rollicking piece of Irish whimsey. Jug o' Punch. This typical of their treatment of a standard folk number — dynamic, fresh, and delivered with great gusto.
Ray and Archie Fisher have established themselves as a compelling brother and sister duet. Ray's voice, carrying as it does some of the earthy drive of the late Edith Piafs is ideally suited to Leave Her Johnny, a strident song of the sea. Archie explains what they have done to Poor Bill.
One of the most successful of the young singers from the northeast of Scotland — always a stronghold of folk performers—is Eleanor Leith. Unlike many Scots singers, however, she has brought the songs of many lands into her repertoire. On Side 1 she sings the modern song What Have They Done to the Rain alongside the traditional Still I Love Him.
The Corrie Trio and Paddie return to close the side with Roy Williamson on concertina and leading Hanging Johnny. Ronnie Browne and the other Corries get Side 2 off to a rumbustious start with Finnegan's Wake. Of all the great comic Irish songs this one is amongst the best, with its strong narrative, jigging choruses, and disconcerting good humour. Another great Irish song. She Moved Thro' the Fair, is a real test for any singer and Paddie Bell's performance of it reveals all of its haunting beauty and sadness.
The Gaelic culture still survives in Scotland and is represented here by Dolina McLennan who comes from the Outer Hebrides. Dolina sings traditional peurt a beul and follows up with a Lowland lyric Dee an Auld Maid in a Garret, a song of working-class Glasgow.
From the same scene comes Backgreen Ballad, a comic fragment, which Ray and Archie Fisher remember from their childhood around the close-mouths of Glasgow. Eleanor Leith returns to sing I Aince Loved a Lad, and Ray Fisher leads the company and the audience in We Shall Overcome, the "freedom song" of the American negroes, which Ray has sung so often and well that it is now identified with her all over Britain.