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EWAN MCLENNAN - Rags And Robes

EWAN MCLENNAN - Rags And Robes
Fellside FECD235

The press release accompanying Rags And Robes avers that it’s “set to stop people in their tracks” but if you’re expecting ‘Pet Sounds’ then look away now! Ewan hasn’t spent enough time in the sandbox yet, but there’s homogeneity in this first step, a unity of purpose that suggests he knows exactly what he’s doing and intends to do it for some time to come. He grew up in Edinburgh, moving to Leeds some five years back to do a music degree. He’ll be 20-something then, playing mainly traditional material to his own adroit guitar accompaniment.

Now if your heart sinks at the news of yet another interchangeable young graduate with a staggering technique and a supposed handle on where-it’s-at, thank goodness for Ewan McLennan!

The album’s DNA is a mix of the Tradition, social history and political awareness - mainly Scots songs and tunes (Tramps And Hawkers, Jute Mill Song, Flowers Of Edinburgh) a version of MacColl’s Jamie Foyers – defiant, emotive, never better, and an uplifting Joe Hill

His choice of material might be comparatively conservative but the impact he has with it is quite formidable. These songs will be familiar, and they work for that very reason – it’s like greeting old friends after their stripped back makeover. If there has to be a gripe it would be that the world maybe doesn’t need another tilt at Jock Stewart but frankly though, it’s all rather splendid; - there’s no denying the depth and dimension of this record. His own songs carry a profound punch, the street-life Another Morning’s Beggar is especially convincing and has a fierce conviction that’s emotive and doesn’t so much tug at the heart strings as shred them.

Tempting as it is to label McLennan as a precious new talent there’s much more going on here than such a facile classification suggests – this record has a real scope to it and an assurance which belies its debut status.

Clive Pownceby

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