Eric Bogle & John Munro,
The Emigrant & The Exile
(Greentrax, 1996)

This is a CD with an unusual history. Bogle and Munro are both resident in Australia -- hence the title from these ex-patriates. The main recording was done in the Antipodes and the tracks transported back to Scotland -- a new twist on transportation. Extra backing and production was done there and the result is magic.

The duo share songwriting credits and together they manage to bring us a Scottish folk gem from under a southern star.

Munro has written a short history of Scottish folk in his song "Were You There?" He recreates an era of folk clubs and "looking back to when Ewan wrote the songs we sang and Hamish played the blues." But this is not just a bout of nostalgia. It also tells us on the record company deals and ends on an optimistic note recalling that Bogle, Gaughan and the like are still writing and performing and as you read this -- the audience still loves good folk.

Although this CD dates back a few years, a number of the tracks have not had the exposure that they deserve. One such song by John Munro is "The Ballad of Charles Davenport," and it should be a folk classic. Like the best of folk it recounts a real story about a real person. It tells us that bad as Ireland was in the middle of the 20th century, it was not alone. Other countries threw the children of single mothers into orphanages and sent them to distant lands "for their own good." Charles was one of them. By the time he traced his mother all he could speak to was a grave.

Bogle asks the question we all think at times in his song "Progress." He talks of the modernisation of Glasgow and sings, "If you think we're making progress you are blind." "Marking Time" is for anyone wondering where to turn, how to proceed, advising "listen to your heart, it's the only road to follow."

The liner notes tell us that "Campbell's Daughter" is a modern, instant folk song. It certainly has the ingredients: unrequited love, deceit, injustice and a bit of murder. Listen without knowing when it was written and I bet you could not date it.

I have always loved Bogle's song "One Small Star," but it was only when reading the liner notes on this CD did I realise that it was written for the parents of the children murdered in the school in Dunblane. It adds a new poignancy to a fantastic song.

The whole CD is a joy to listen to. We are familiar with Bogle but this album gives voice to John Munro. Here are heartfelt songs, funny songs and most important, songs that make us think. Well worth the effort of seeking out.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 14 June 2003