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ALEX HODGSON - Jeelie Jars ‘n’ Coalie Backies

ALEX HODGSON - Jeelie Jars ‘n’ Coalie Backies
Greentrax CDTRAX351 

Alex comes from Prestonpans in East Lothian, and this is hugely evident in this CD, which is largely self-penned.  Any “Panner’ writing within the traditional mode nowadays has a peerless role-model in the late Davy Steele, and there are times when Alex has a turn of phrase, an accentual stress, or musical arrangement that brings Davy to mind, but not in an imitative way.

Alex draws on his own experiences and his deep knowledge of local – and wider Scottish – history to inform his songs.  Here we have lyrics that reflect on trysting around the Mercat Cross in past days; the beguiling fisher lassies of the Lothian coast; the inspirations of poppy fields; the harrowing times of King James VI’s harassment of those suspected of witchcraft; and the tragedy of the Blantyre pit explosion.  There is also a wistful look at the dance hall traditions of his parents’ generation and a love poem to his wife Isobelle.

All these are delivered in a powerful and melodic voice, with innovative backing from  Alex on guitar and mandolin, alongside Kenny Hutchison, piano, organ, synth, accordion; Calais Brown, guitars, mandolin; Jim McDermott, percussion; Kevin McGuire, double bass; David Paton, bass; Tony Klime, violin; James Mackintosh, ukulele; and Jennifer Leitch, backing vocals.

The original material sits nicely alongside the four traditional tracks, and a feature of Alex’ singing is that there is a feeling that they all belong to the same tradition and there really is a carrying stream in action here.

A fine album from a grand singer.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 86 of The Living Tradition magazine.