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Barry Nisbet Barry Nisbet
Album: A Bright Ray Of Sunshine
Label: Rattled Rig
Tracks: 10
Website: http://www.birnamcshop.com

"The Borderland."

This track has country feel about. It tells the story of a people living in the borderlands, facing adversity and enemies. "Back to back we faced them down, side by side we stood our ground" dragging the means of survival out of stony ground, building shelter where there was none, much in the way of the old Pioneers of the west. These people are traditionally depicted as rough, tough and possibly devoid of feelings. This song awakens thoughts about the emotional as well physical toll taken in trying to establish a life in new territories and invoking memories of those left behind. I liked the instrumental treatment of this song, the guitar suggesting the constant effort required to maintain the life, whilst the vocal is more thoughtful.

"Comfortless Cove."

A complete change of style for this song. Firstly Barry Nisbet displays his Scottish accent which seemed to absent in the previous song. The subject matter is different too. The travails of a sailor as young man who encounters his first battle at sea. There is a description of Georgetown, Ascension Island which is illustrative of the island's beauty. "where the mountain rose high through the tropical airs." Aesthetics are not however the subject of this song. It is the plight of "the poor souls of Comfortless Cove" As the navy ships try to intercept the slave traders, they sail up the west African coast, visiting Freetown and other places, the ship lowers it's colours in memory of the plight of those caught up in the slave trade. Our hero gets sick and weak as he describes his life in his last letter home. At least he did not sail in manacles and fetters, he had sympathy for those who did. The beat of the song has that of the plodding of the slaves he tried to stop being delivered to their fate.

"Brydon & Anona's Wedding Waltz."

Most Scottish Wedding tunes appear to be jigs or reels, this gentle waltz led by the fiddle of Barry Nisbet contains inflections of the sounds of highlands. The simple tune is joined by the piano of Robbie Ward and almost imperceptible percussion of Robin Wynn Evans. For this CD Barry collected together a band of notable musicians from around the Dundee area and beyond each known for their contribution to other (mainly) Scottish musical groups. Hence Ade Dacre, (drums) Stephen Jack (bass) and vocal backing from Amira Kremers and Fiona McAndrew make a collective talented whole.

"Train To Anywhere."

"Woke one morning to the sound of screams, I knew we had to go." Reflecting on the situation of those who find themselves cast as refugees. Subjects of systematic expulsion from the land of their fathers. This is the story of the massive migration that started and continues in the second decade of the third millennium. Mohammed has to move his family to save his children. It is a sobering saga, which if you are not moved by the reports in the media, you might well be by this song. The closing tones of the accordion swell the feeling of sadness.

"Hunger's Daughter."

A thin man begs for food for him and his beautiful daughter. Our hero asks to walk beside her. Despite reality she remembers seeing her father astride a tall black mare, looking "terrible and fine." She hates to see how far they have fallen, she stumbles our boy tries to catch her and he fell into her arms and under her spell. But hard times continue and the beauty dies. The lively and inventive tune which accompanies this song seems at odd to it's message but it reflects the vigorous efforts by the boy in vain to keep his girl alive.

"Desert Wind."

To the plains of South Australia for an attempt to describe the wind that blew in that desert. Barry thinks this will be as close as he will get. It is evocative of the northeast wind asking no questions and expecting no reply as it blows the dust through the sparse trees. Big skies, large open spaces, distant horizons, places where birds scrape a living off the sea shore and mountains rise sheer through the jungle. The people of the remote towns are strangers not giving you the right answers until you ask the right questions.

"Da Ballad o Da Jessie."

An account of the wrecking to the Shetland fishing fleet in July 1881. One boat in particular is picked out for examination the "Ann Jessie." Her skipper was among many lost, leaving his widow Margaret Henry five months pregnant and a five-year-old son, John Nisbet Henry. These are real people and the song recounts a tragedy that devastated the village of Gloup with most of the menfolk gone. This song is sung in a broad Shetland accent which seem appropriate in the circumstances.

"Come in the Summer Time."

A rather more upbeat introduction leads to happier scenario when we can all enjoy the days of long sunshine. Come in the summer time we can watch the early dawns and we can explore places that no-one else knows. The stars above are old friends of mine, we can go where the wind takes us. Our lives will be idyllic, so please come in the summer time.

"Imperial Jig/The Night Trip To London"

Barry Nisbet combines the music of his native Shetland, with other areas of the world history and the sea. Here we are more traditional grounds with two jigs that might be heard at any Scottish gathering. Toe tapping at it's best.

"Within Sadness."

"I thought we were all right when the shutters let in a shaft of the grey morning light." We were talking about nothing in particular when I caught a moment of loneliness in your eyes. This track exhibits the skills of the musicians taking part in the production of this album it also shows moments of contemplation within a relationship. It was beautiful.

I cannot recall having come across a more eclectic mix of moods and musical styles in a single album before. This only goes to show what a talent we have providing music for us here. All the songs are Barry Nisbet originals and they reflect his interest in events of the past both at home and far away. Some of the songs are charming, others are shocking in their record of what went before. Together they purvey an album of quality song writing. I found it irresistible and to some extent educational. We are all richer through knowing of events in the past and those that are happening around us today. The album is on general release online from birnamcdshop.com as well as the usual iTunes, amazon. google play and spotify outlets etc. If you are in Shetland, Orkney or Dundee, you may find it in one of the local record shops there.

Tony Collins