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Baker's Dozen

Arcane Lore: Alasdair Roberts' Favourite Albums
Neil Macdonald , April 2nd, 2013 07:59

The Scottish folk artist picks out his top LPs, going from Bach to Kraftwerk by way of Bahamian field recordings and 14th-century French polyphonic classical music

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Dick Gaughan - Handful Of Earth
My father was a guitarist as well - not much of a singer, but he was a guitarist - and he was around the folk scene in Glasgow in the 60s, hanging around with Billy Connolly and people like that, and all of the guitars I play I inherited from him. In the seventies he lived in Germany, and him and his wife ran a booking agency, and they booked a lot of folk bands and artists of the time. People like Silly Wizard, The Tannahill Weavers, The Bothy Band, Battlefield Band, The John Renbourn Group, Pierre Bensusan. So I listened to all those guys a lot, but I didn't want too much of that kind of music in what I chose because in a lot of ways it's quite similar to what I do myself nowadays. It was later in my teens I started listening to this kind of stuff, in my early teens it was more indie rock, and what John Peel was playing. Growing up in a small town in central Scotland, the Scottish traditional music that was presented to you then seemed quite corny. I grew up next to a woollen mill that sold wool, tartan, shortbread and all that kind of stuff; and the sort of music they would play was just so sentimental and romanticised so that really put me off and left me wishing I was in London or something rather than this small town with this very sanitised view of what Scottish traditional music is. But when you hear someone like Dick it just totally blows that away, there's nothing sentimental about it. Politically as well, I sympathise with him. I'm definitely not as informed as him, politically, and I'm probably not as far left on the political spectrum as he is - and I think it very much informs his choice of songs, his entire work. He would never sing something that he doesn't really believe in, and you can see that on Handful Of Earth. Every song has some sort of point to it, some kind of reason for existing. He's a continually inspiring figure for me, and I've probably seen him live every year for ten years although I do prefer his seventies albums, his first albums up to Handful Of Earth. He played this album live at Celtic Connections, maybe four or five years ago, and there's this one song called 'Craigie Hill', and I was moved to tears... I rarely weep at music, but on this occasion I did. I think the only other song that's made me cry is 'Radioactivity' by Kraftwerk.


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