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MATT MCGINN - The Best Of Matt McGinn: Volume 2

MATT MCGINN - The Best Of Matt McGinn: Volume 2
Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX253

The Jacobites came roaring south in 1745

They caused some consternation to everyone alive

From Inverness to Derby they raised a helluva din

Not one of them could ever compare to the man called Matt McGinn

(from Matt McGinn by Ed Pickford, who knew the man).

Matt McGinn of the Gallowgate in Glasgow was a singer and songwriter in the early days of the folk revival, but also highly respected further afield, once sharing a stage with Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger at the Carnegie Hall in 1962. He was nominated as the Woody Guthrie of Scotland by Tom Paxton at a US memorial concert in 2004, so his status as an important figure is undoubted, while his songs are still very much part of the current Scottish repertoire. His work has been recognised over the years by the citizens of Glasgow, one apt tribute being the dedication of 'McGinn's' bar outside Queen Street station, where one of his songs is inscribed on an exterior wall.

Like many singers of that era, he never played an instrument, but was a perceptive observer of political events like the UCS shipyard saga and of comic events involving such as Bingo Bella in the Glasgow of 50 years ago. His songs here range from the humour of the Wee Kirkcudbright Centipede to his dark lament for the 66 victims of the Ibrox Park football tragedy of 1971.

I did see him perform live in the sixties, and he had no pretensions at all, with an obvious respect for the tradition, even though his performance was 90% his own work. It was a sad blow to the movement when he died at the age of 48 in 1977. In his lifetime, he composed over 500 songs, many of which became anthems of the folk revival. This is Volume 2, so you won't find his better known efforts like Coorie Doon or the Red YoYo on this CD, which is a welcome reissue of two LPs from the early seventies.

It's a well-presented CD at a bargain price, if maybe a little lacking in information about the songs. However this hardly detracts from the obvious natural gifts and sheer vision of the man, blended with his innate Glasgow humour; it's a rare mix indeed, and the lack of details in the notes isn't crucial - the songs speak for themselves. This CD was released to mark the 40th anniversary of his untimely death, and is a re-release of important work by a perceptive and committed songwriter. If you're new to the music, and can penetrate the accent, of course, Matt McGinn's was a talent you really should hear - this CD is a great opportunity!

Jim Bainbridge

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This album was reviewed in Issue 121 of The Living Tradition magazine.