Andrew Calhoun,
Rhymer's Tower: Ballads of the Anglo-Scottish Border
(Waterbug, 2017)

Andrew Calhoun, a singer-songwriter from the midwest, is perhaps best-known for his traditional material, specifically old ballads from the British Isles. This collection, a two-CD set, explores songs from 1250 to 1600, some familiar, some obscure, but all telling stories of heroic deeds, along with some not so heroic, of the times. Many of the songs describe war and battles and ring so true to history that you can imagine wandering minstrels carrying the news around the countryside by singing them.

Appropriately, the album opens with "The Two Ravens," the old story-song of two hungry ravens deciding to feed on the body of a dead soldier. Death in battle haunts these songs. "Johnie Armstrong" is about a man who led a rebellion against King James V, whom James caught and hanged. Johnie was 50, James was 17. "The Rookhope Ryde" is about the uprising of the earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland, which was violently put down. Lots of blood and gore in these songs.

Calhoun has the perfect voice for these songs. Deep and sonorous, strong yet expressive, his is a voice that captures the essence of the songs, rendering them entertaining as well as historic. Accompanied just by his classical guitar, as the old minstrels were accompanied only by lutes, his fingerpicking is imaginative and appropriate.

If you want to hear the old ballads made fresh again, Andrew Calhoun is your man and Rhymer's Tower is your album.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

25 February 2017

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new