John Strachan: Songs from Aberdeenshire

(
Rounder Records
)

Recorded in 1951 by Alan Lomax and Hamish Henderson
Notes by Hamish Henderson and Ewan McVicar

John Strachan (1875–1958) was one of Scotland’s greatest folk singers, with an extensive repertoire that “ran the full gamut from fine versions of classic ballads to bawdy Latin puirt-a-beul”(Hamish Henderson). His was a familiar voice on Aberdeen radio yet this is the first album devoted entirely to him. Somewhat paradoxically, since Strachan was himself a farm owner, not a laborer, his specialty was the bothy ballad, a genre depicting the vicissitudes of farm-servant’s life. This CD includes “The Hairst o Rettie,” “Harrowing Time” and the 13-minute “big ballad,” “Lang Johnnie More.”

“He sang . . . with the rant of the old-time singer of tales. His eyes sparkled, his face flushed with pleasure, his burry Scots voice romped through the verse as he swung his powerful arms in time to the beat of a ballad.” —Alan Lomax, quoted by Hamish Henderson