“Singing the River” by Alastair McDonald

January 01, 2011
The place, Glenfarg Folk Club…the year, 1983 (I think!)...the occasion, a 24 hour singaround to raise attention & hopefully, some money, for world hunger, prompted by the increasing TV coverage of unfortunates sitting in the sun covered with flies, apparently waiting to die! That’s where I first heard the singing voice of Ian Walker performing his own song, “Some Ha`e Meat”, using Robert Burns` “Selkirk Grace” as the ironic backdrop chorus to a song about western greed, unheeded plenty & corporate waste (Note: dead fish thrown back into the sea rather than being landed to feed someone, seems to be an unresolved note of contention in Scotland even at this time of writing!). “Now that…” I said, “ clever…” to remind us that the Selkirk Grace, which usually prompts coy chuckles or sporadic applause at Burns` Suppers, should be an expression of gratitude, NOT a precursor to that which our American cousins would call, “...a pig-out..”. Add to that, a later song describing Henri Dunant’s prompting, after the bloody battle of Solferino, to establish a unit that was to become known as “The Red Cross”, convinced me that I had encountered a writer with a heart for social history that touched the life & well-being of people & called for change. Now what else is social history meant to achieve? No surprise then, that this new album from Ian Walker contains more songs from his prolific pen that focuses on a care about life, in all it’s fullness - hope for peace, prayer for others, praise to The Creator, all in unambiguous & unapologetic terms. If you seek, “...moon in June…” lu-u-rrrve lyrics or convoluted personal versified thoughts that can mean, “...anything you want it to, man…” this, I don’t think, will be for you; although if you are open minded enough to listen beyond 16 bars you might just gain an insight into something earned through experience. Speaking as one who has hardly ever had to scratch a lyrical line for himself, having been presented with great songs from a variety of truly wonderful writers over the years, I am personally in awe of anyone who can write a collection of songs & then summon up the wherewithal to present them to the public ear, so I am honoured to be asked to write these few words on this collection. Alastair McDonald