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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - June/July 2003
Scots Take Double Header

Two reviews by the inimitable Dan Willging from the April 2003 issue of OFF BEAT - New Orleans' music publication. I'd say this qualifies as a double header. See you in the pubs and at the games! Tioraidh! dbs


Smithfield Fair
Burns Night Out!
(Stevenson Productions)
Perhaps more so than any other single figure, the legacy of Scotland's 18th-century bard emeritus, composer and society playboy Robert Burns has left a profound effect on modern Scottish culture. In his short lifetime, he not only penned hundreds of poems but traversed the countryside, collecting and preserving indigenous songs that could have easily been lost when it was more fashionable to be British. Today there's nary a purveyor of Scottish traditional music who hasn't felt the gent's monumental impact as Baton Rouge's Smithfield Fair can attest to with this delightful 18-track treasure trove.

Though it's impossible to do Burns justice with a single volume, SF does a commendable job by presenting an assortment of his best compositions, lyrics, melodies and poems. From the opening track, "A Man's A Man For A' That," to the New Year's Eve reveler "Auld Lang Syne," these selections reveal Burns' peerless prose given these themes of amorous passions, idyllic devotions and statements of nationalistic pride that were controversial in their day. The husband-and-wife team of Dudley-Brian and Jan Smith sing heartily in the extinct Broad Scots dialect, either singularly or resoundingly together ("Highland Mary"). Depending on the song's sentiment, the adept guitarist Dudley-Brian opts for tender picking patterns or drives percussively on the peppier melodies. Jan's gliding accordion lines provide a complementary melodic balance while Frang Bladen symbolizes the Scottish heartbeat on bodhran. Despite the perceived limitations of such a trio configuration, SF capably shifts textures for a fresh, vibrant feel while occasionally transplanted septuagenarian Scotsman Tom Murray recites a poem that, like the rest of this, is rendered in a proud, stately manner.
-Dan Willging

Smithfield Fair
Jacobites By Name
(Centaur Records)
Jacobites By Name addresses one of the landmark events in Scottish history, the Jacobite revolution that failed to restore the House of Stuart as the reigning body of England. Due to Bonnie Prince Charlie's inept leadership, not only did blood flow like a river but a significant amount of highland culture and the Gaelic way of life was quelled in this quasi-genocidal affair. The subject's emotional passion is the reason why the Scots have kept its remembrance alive in song and literature. It also happens to be Smithfield Fair's best disc ever, a rousing, teeth-clenching, fist-waving affair that provides a well-rounded view of all things Jacobite. Through a bevy of traditional material, SF covers the false expectations surrounding the alleged liberator Prince Charlie, the exiled tinkers, the downtrodden troops, and those waiting for their main squeeze to return. The title song, a Burns composition, urges Scots to rise again while "Lord George Will Lead" pays homage to one of the insurrection's real leaders. It's an intensely stirring performance with SF's impassioned vocals and hard-nosed playing supplying a gritty realness to it all. In between, there are a few infectious Jan Smith-composed accordion instrumentals. If you've never crossed your legs in a kilt or sat down to an aromatic platter of haggis, SF makes it seem you've like you've been wearing the tartan all your life.

-Dan Willging

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