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THE McCALMANS - Coming Home (Live)

THE McCALMANS - Coming Home (Live)
Greentrax CDTRAX336

“This could be the last McCalman’s CD” … surely shome mishtake.  The world will end if the Macs cease to be, won’t it?

Seriously – what is it about the Macs that place them in such a position of affection and respect from serious folkpersons, while pleasing the crowds of non-specialists again and again?  Other bands who have gone for the “entertainment” end of the folk spectrum fail to retain that level of credibility and … love … for want of a worse word.  This final (don’t believe it for a millisecond) CD shows why.  Yes – there’s banter and laughs and downright silliness from Uncle Mac.  Yes, there’s a jolly comic song about recycling, with some lyrics of which Jake Thackray would have been proud.  There’s even a bit of well-sung Scottish jingoism in “Ye Jacobites by Name” … but there’s a colossal dollop of integrity that causes all the populist fun and games to sit easily beside Nick Keir’s wistful “Portnahaven” and Ian’s thoughtful “Victory parade”.  The musical impeccability of it all helps. 

The Macs are blessed with three fine, contrasting voices, and thus with a wide range of possible vocal noises.  Yes, of course, they can blast away in fine macho-harmony style on Stan Rogers’ “North West Passage” but they can also go all lyrical and sensitive.  That’s what makes the Macs work on stage and it’s captured beautifully on this live CD.  It was recorded at venues across Scotland and Denmark, with even some in my own native Penicuik – although I suspect that we’re largely the audience noise as Steven (“The Voice”) Quigg was vocally crocked that night!

This is funny, touching and rousing in equal parts.  If Ian’s announced retiral in 2010 is for real, this would be a fine swan song.  I’m hoping, like every good folk club organiser, to prise another wee song/CD out of them before they go.

Alan Murray
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This album was reviewed in Issue 82 of The Living Tradition magazine.