Autumnal Answers (October/November) Part One
12/20/2006 (updated 12/20/2006)

The Mingulay performance is stunningly beautiful, and accumulatively powerful as well; sounds like one somebody left off of Gold Disc-winning (at last) Liege and Lief. Of course you are an artist who rarely looks back, and you never suffer, it seems, any lack of inspiration for new songs, new versions of touring, etc. But, good Richard, couldn't you please consider revisiting, just once, a whole new album's worth of Old English/British Isles/Scots wha hae material? It really wouldn't be selling out to create another original folk-rock masterpiece; we know, we can hear, you have it in you!

All best as ever, Ed Leimbacher

As I’ve always said, there are better traditional singers, and I’m always looking over my shoulder when I sing something like ‘Mingulay’, slightly disbelieving that I can get away with it. On the other hand, my grandmother, who was a mere Inner Hebridean, used to sing this, so I could claim oral tradition! And of course, how trad is trad when the song was written in 1938? This song gets sung a lot by ‘professional’ Scottish entertainers, those who milk the emotion dry and lay on the nationalism with a trowel, so I wanted to rescue it from that world a bit, because it’s a killer song. As to a whole trad album, I’d love to do it, but it would be judged up against some very fine interpreters….I’d be nervous but willing.

Like Richard, I love old quaint words, and saw the word MInch in the Mingulay Boat Song lyrics:

What care we though, white the Minch is?
What care we for wind or weather?.....etc

So,I turned to my trusty Jamieson's 600 page Scottish Dictionary - published 1867. A quaint and quirky book to be sure. Take a word like Yule-Blinker – which is the Christmas star!!! Fantastic word!

Anyway,to get to my question,I can’t find Minch in Jamieson’s and would like to know what it means. A minn is a strait between two islands with a strong current. Thanks, Madeleine in Toronto

The Minch is the name given to the body of water between the Scottish mainland and The Outer Hebrides. It may therefore be related to minn.

It’s extraordinary how quickly oral tradition changes lyrics to improve singability. Sir Hugh Robertson wrote this not that long ago, to a much older tune, and his original lyric could be said to be slightly ‘parlour’, being composed for the Glasgow Orpheus Choir. You quote two lines:

What care we though, white the Minch is?
What care we for wind or weather

Many versions, mine too, now sing this as

What care we how white the Minch is
What care we boys for windy weather

I also snuck in my own variation, preferring ‘gazing seaward’ to ‘looking seaward’.

I forget which concert recording it was, but I was struck by some disparaging comments you made about Pentangle, drawing some chuckles from the audience*. However, I had to wonder: were you having some fun at Danny's expense, or do you truly dislike the group? If the latter, was it their arrangements that turned you off? Song selection? Lack of original material? It wasn't their musicianship, was it?

*Yes I do like Pentangle :-)

Bob Barrows

I was basically teasing Dan. I will confess myself more of a fan of Pentangle as individuals than as a group, and I’m most familiar with the work of Bert and DT.

I spend some time on a technology/music-oriented BBS and the question came up: "How can I maximize the actual proceeds that a musical artist receives when I buy a CD (or DVD)? Buy on-line? At a show? Or ???

I would say online or at a show will give the artist the most recompense. We should all be supporting our local mom and pop record shops too, and as artists not begrudge them their retailer’s percentage.

I was searching YouTube recently and saw some great clips of the band with Clive and Christine and she does such a lovely job of harmonizing with you that I wonder if it's possible to bring her along with you again someday. She is one of my favorite (living) singers and she's so unknown here in the US it's a crime. I also am curious as to the new record underway and is it a full "band " record and who is playing on it and will they be the live combo as well?

Christine is so great, and really is underappreciated both in the UK and the US. She could have done the pop star thing in her teenage years, but she balked at entering that world, and who can blame her. She has a pretty good career going, and may have outgrown the side-person role, but I always love to work with her. As far as I know, the band for 2007 will be Danny Thompson, Michael Jerome and Pete Zorn. Players on the new recording include Michael Jerome (Drums), Danny Thompson (Upright Bass), Taras Prodaniuk (Electric Bass), and Michael Hays (Guitar, Vocals).

I have seen a few shortcuts of the Videowest "Guitar Player" (1981) on youtube and enjoyed them a lot. Would you know if that whole show has been released on video?I see that you where playing a Martin 000-18 at that time, do you remember what year it has been made?

I think the VideoWest footage was about half an hour. I don’t think it’s available in its entirety. I was playing my 1966 Martin 000-18, a wonderful guitar that is pretty beaten up at this point, and needs extensive repair.