Steve Byrne, Songs From Home, (Greentrax recordings, 2005)

I believe this is Steve Byrne's debut album as a solo singer. Steve is perhaps better known for his work with the Edinburgh based Scots-Irish folk song band Malinky. Steve is a self confessed addict to the lyrics and voice of his home in the county of Angus, on the north east coast of Scotland, and who can blame him? Not me. Returning to his Celtic roots on this album, he presents a collection of songs sung in his own dialect, - more about that later.

There are fourteen songs on the album, two of them written by Steve in his Angus dialect. The others are poems taken from the works of Angus poets which were published in various books between 1831 and 1934, the majority coming from just before the turn of the century. Amongst them, a strong reference is made to the works of George Webster Donald (1831- 91) whose works inspired Steve. This has indeed been a labour of love for the past 5 years and it is to this end he has endeavored to bring the poems to a wider audience by setting them to music. Many of the tunes you may well recognize from other songs if you are a fan of songs from Scotland's tradition. The albums sleeve notes carry all the words to the poems as they were written in Angus dialect. I must say after reading the words/booklet, Steve has chosen his material very well, for the poems, the way they are written, fall naturally to music and song. Very much the same as Cicely Fox Smith poems do.

It is fair to say, they couldn't be sung any other way, but Steve sings in a heavy Angus dialect in order to give the works a flavour of Angus. This may prove to be a bit of a problem for some parts of the 'English speaking world'. I must confess that even I was forced to result to reading the text of the song from the booklet at times. But this is my only 'gripe' for what is otherwise an extremely good concept album.

I really enjoyed the opening track 'The ither Lass', with words and music by Steve, asong of unrequited love for a childhood sweetheart he left behind. I thought this excellent and quite wonder why Malinky turned it down as band song! The other song also written by Steve is good -- 'Leavin Angus in the Mornin' -- methinks he should concentrate on writing more.

At track 3 you find the second of the poems by G.W. Donald set to music by Steve (using the tune of Dainty Davy) that is worthy of an extra mention. Maybe it's the tune, I don't know, but I think it fits better than the tune original intended to accompany the poem, 'Loch Errochside'. The same should also be said for the tune Steve put to 'Young Jessie 'O' Bonnie Dundee'.

In pure musical entertainment terms this album may not be everyone's tipple, not that it's intended to be, but for the purists and the Scott's amongst you it is pure nectar. Concept albums are very subjective, but in my opinion this one is very good.

[Peter Massey]