Reviews

Fraser & Ian BruceFraser & Ian Bruce
Album: The Best Of Mrs. Bruce's Boys
Label: Greentrax
Tracks: 16
Website: http://www.fraserbruce.co.uk

There was a period in the early-to-mid-1980s when siblings Fraser and Ian Bruce provided an essential antidote to the superficial glossy pop scene with their supremely classy straightahead folk music double-act which toured the UK festival, concert and folk club circuit with great success for close on seven years. During that time, they released three exceedingly fine records – on vinyl and tape, naturally, for this was the pre-dawn of the CD age. When they split up, in 1986 (Fraser to start his own business, Ian to continue his musical career), they were assuredly at the top of their game. Ian has remained one of the nation’s most in-demand folk artists ever since, with some 20 CDs to his credit plus a large number of self-penned songs which have become folk standards; he currently works both solo and as part of a duo with his friend Ian Walker, and they released a joint CD only last year. The success of Fraser’s business, enabling him to hand it over to two of his sons, has given him the time to revisit the glory years with Ian, and this well-filled compilation is the result.

The disc gathers together a generous representative selection of eleven tracks taken from the Boys’ three albums (including some tracks that have been freshly remastered from the original master tapes), to which are added five tracks recorded live at Edinburgh’s Wee Folk Club (at the Royal Oak) in May 2015 which include the consummate musicianship of Ian Walker as well as some particularly enthusiastic audience participation. One of the live tracks is a performance of Ian’s own graceful composition White Flower, which was written especially for the reunion gig as a tribute to his and Fraser’s late mother Blodwen. Of the studio tracks, two come from the 1980 LP Mrs. Bruce’s Boys Volume 1, four from 1985’s Vol. 2, and the remaining five from the “album in the middle” (now there’s Scots logic for you!), 1982’s Veil Of The Ages. They were originally released on small labels (Rickety Rackety and Klub/Lochside Records), and boast strongly characterised accompaniment from the pick of the session musicians of the time including “Old Hickory” mates Alan, Rob and Ian Mairs – accompaniment which truly stands the test of time and perfectly complements the fabulously robust singing of Mrs. Bruce’s Boys themselves. Their repertoire contains sterling, rarely-bettered versions of folk classics like Farewell To The Gold, King’s Shilling, The Hills Of Isle Au Haut, Bonnie Susie Clelland and The Grey Funnel Line, with a couple of invigorating surprises (Al Stewart’s Nostradamus, Bob & Carole Pegg’s Rise Up Jock) thrown in for good measure; also included is one of Ian’s early compositions, the stirring anthem Edinburgh.

This is a matchless compilation, excellently sequenced and brilliantly remastered and engineered; its appearance also heralds some reunion touring from the Boys, which can only be a good thing!

David Kidman