Various Artists (Alasdair Roberts curated) “Whaur the Pig Gaed on the Spree”

It’s been a bumper year for Glasgow based folk aficionado, Alasdair Roberts. Between producing an album of Gaelic language music, adapting a puppetry show from a Scottish mummers play and writing his next album, he’s found time to sift through 45 hours worth of Alan Lomax’s Scottish recordings to curate a compilation of some of the countries finest field singers. Roberts is a tireless excavator of the half forgotten lore of his native terrain. Its language, imagery and melodies have indelibly branded his own songwriting. But where his songs configure all manner of esoteric flotsam, here the inherent otherness of the source material speaks for itself.
The titanic larynxes of Jeannie Robertson, John Strachan and Willie Mathieson provide a portal to the old, weird Caledonia, with tales of fratricide, incest and lovers press ganged into foreign wars. This vivid, irretrievable hinterland feels all the more tantalizing because it’s just out of reach- Waur the Pig Gaud on the Spree marks the 60th anniversary of Lomax’s Scottish field trip.
Standout tracks include Mary Cosgrove’s mournful reading of “The Collier Lad”, the eccentric bray of Davie Stewart on “McGinty’s Meal and Ale” and Hamish Henderson’s self penned “The John MacLean March”.Henderson is a towering figure in Scottish folk music. As a song collector, prominent socialist and articulate chronicler of the culture, he occupies a similar role to that of A.L Lloyd or Ewan MacColl in England.
While many of these singers have been extensively documented on similar compilations, there are some far from familiar song choices. It’s this unearthing of the extra canonical that marks Waur the Pigs Gaud on the Spree from similar compilations and Roberts song writing from many of his contemporaries.