Shepheard, Spiers & Watson - They Smiled As We Cam In (Springthyme)

The portmanteau collective name SS&W conceals two-thirds of the celebrated Aberdeen combo The Gaugers (Tom Spiers and Arthur Watson), the third member (Peter Hall) having unfortunately died suddenly a few years back. Peter may have been irreplaceable, yet another Peter (Peter Shepheard) proves an equal match in every sense, for his melodeon playing and excellent singing fit with the duo's singing, Tom's fiddle and Arthur's whistle like the proverbial glove.

The whole is in fact an inordinately fine sum of inordinately fine constituent parts, with everything so absolutely right and in its place yet sounding stirringly fresh each time you play the record. It contains both vocal and musical prowess of such natural skill that it's nothing less than an object lesson on how to perform this repertoire. It's also nothing less than mandatory listening for anyone who believes that all Scottish folk music begins and ends with tawdry reels, tartan trews and braw piping! Here we have three performers - all song-collectors par excellence - who are totally at one with their material, having thoroughly absorbed and assimilated their traditional sources (both songs and singers); they know the virtue of simple accompaniment (as opposed to unduly exotic tunings and distracting instrumental trickery), and they know how to tell their stories in song; their deep enjoyment in communicating those stories is tangible and strong.

There's a healthy variety in the songs themselves, with even the more well-known of the song titles (like Glenlogie, Banks Of Newfoundland, Dowie Dens O' Yarrow and Bonnie Ship The Diamond) hiding some deliciously unusual versions. Although the texts are rightly always uppermost in their renditions, the performers' control of the rhythmic element and the instrumental balance is also unerringly infectious. The tone they coax out of their instruments is as glorious as their individual and combined voices; I particularly love the timbre and swing of Tom's fiddle, but all three play winningly. And the booklet notes are exemplary in their clarity and informativeness.

This CD is an unrivalled pleasure that ought to convert even the most hardened anti-Scot; I just couldn't bid it farewell, and had to replay Ye Boys O' Callieburn instantly!... oh, why aren't there more records like this?!

David Kidman (NetRhythms)
NetRhythms Review Link