This year marks the 70th anniversary of the historic Battle Of Bannockburn, a major victory in Scotland’s 1297-1328 struggle for independence from its neighbour to the south of the River Tweed. Greentrax Records marks one of the most important events in Scottish history by releasing this compilation album of Scots rebel songs, music, poems and spoken word pieces by many of Scotland’s finest musicians and artists. 2014 has also been the year of the Scottish Referendum where amazingly the Scots voted 55-45% in favour of remaining slaves to the British empire. Though those 45% may hold their heads high a combination of media scarmongering and lies and downright cowardice and selfishness prevented Scotland from becoming the first truly independent celtic country and taking their place amongst the nations of the world. Needless to say I reckon this record may have been enough to sway many of those 55% to vote ‘YES’ if they had heard it before they went off to vote.
The title of the album ‘for Freedom Alone’ is taken from The Declaration Of Arbroath, of which a portion is included on the album.
The album contains eighteen tracks of which sixteen are relevant to historic period of the Wars Of Independence and the exploits of Wiliam Walace and Robert The Bruce. Wallace’s famous victory at Stirling Brig and his overwhelming defeat at Falkirk are the subjects of two songs, and of course The Battle of Bannockburn features in several. Nine of the tracks have been specifically written for inclusion on the album.
Tracks include readings of the humorous short story ‘The Spiders Legend Of Robert The Bruce’, which tells of The Bruce taking inspiration from watching a spider struggling and ultimatly succededing, and a abridged version of ‘The Declaration Of Arbroath’ by BBC Scotland radio presenter Iain Anderson who somewhat makes up a very tiny bit for the shameful pro-union propaganda/bullshit and lies his employers used during the Referendum. Both are stirring enough to move even a sassenach to take up arms!
Among the other tracks on this album folk legends The Corries sing the late Roy Williamson’s ‘Flower Of Scotland’ which has become the most famous Scots rebel song in existance and the unoffical national anthem.
“Those days are passed now
And in the past they must remain
But we can still rise now
And be the nation again
That stood against him
Proud Edward’s army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again”
The Corries also contribute ‘The Black Douglas’, of which included in the accompanying 24 page booklet is a reproduction of the painting of The Black Douglas, James Douglas (1286-1330) was a Scottish knight who was one of the chief commanders during the Wars Of Independence. The booklet also contains sleeve notes written by Jim Paris and artwork from John Slavin and deserve special mention. Brief explainations of Scottish medieval history are included as well as telling the stories of each tracks background.
More Scots legends in The McCalmans offer up ‘The Lion Wallace Saw’. They toured from the early 60’s right up to 2010 and are sorely missed on the celtic/ Scots folk scene.
“Here I stand and watch for aye, roar the hour out day by day
Freedom strong to sound the sway, from far sea to sea
Freedom is the lion’s aim, freedom for the lion’s ain
Match the lion in his den, or let freedom be”
Arhur Johnstone sings the classic Robbie Burns song ‘Scots Wha Hae’, most famous in these parts I would have thought for The Real McKenzies version. Alistair Fraser brings his ‘supergroup’ of traditional musicians, Skyedance, with the haunting instrumental ‘Bannockburn’ with Highland bagpipe and uilleann pipes combining beautifully. Scots republican and banjo player Alistair McDonald contributes an older song ‘The Battle Of Stirling Brig’ which sounds a wee bit like it could have been in a John Wayne 1950’s western and a newer song ‘William Wallace -Knight Of Elderslie’
“Then the noblest heart in Scotland was revealed for all to see,
when they hacked him into pieces underneath the gallows-tree
but the butchery and slaughter cannot scar the memory
of Wallace, the knight of Elderslie.
Once again the land’s in darkness as we hang our heads to mourn
and remember how the Wallace caused oppression’s time to turn.
But Scotsmen I stand ready and prepare for Bannockburn,
thanks to Wallace, the knight of Elderslie”
Specially recorded for the album are tracks by Robin Laing, Sylvia Barnes And Sandy Stanage. Ian McCalmans influence looms large over many of the songs on this album and the quality of his writing shows. Alex Hodgson sings ‘The Sword Of Banockburn’ and an original Ian McCalman song ‘New Day’. Ian Bruce sings ‘De Bruce, De Bruce’ a poem also put to music and arranged by Ian and his last contribution is on George Archibalds version of ‘Bruces Address To His Captains’ part of John Barbour’s epic poem put to music by Ian.
The two bonus tracks bring the 14th-century struggle for freedom into the present. Alastair Fraser and Natalie Haas’s fine instrumental ‘The Referendum’ is followed by London Celtic Punks favourite Dick Gaughans ‘Both Sides Of The Tweed’ from his 1981 album ‘Handful Of Earth’ which explains in a way only Dick can that the independence movement in Scotland is not about hatred for the English but rather about the struggle for self-determination
“Let friendship and honor unite and flourish on both sides the Tweed.”
From old fashioned folk to traditional dance music this album will surely please both those traditionalists and those who have come to the album purely to top up their patrioic fervour after the disappointment of losing the Referendum. As shocking as that No vote was to those of us who would like to see freedom for Scotland and all the celtic nations it has to be said that it has only delayed the inevitable. The clock is ticking on the empire north of the border and when finally the day dawns over a independent Scotland these songs and the traditions they come from will be greatly cherished and truly recognised for keeping the flame alight.
Buy The Album
direct from Greentrax Records here celebrating nearly thirty years of supplying Scottish music worldwide. only £10 for a limited time.
Learn Yer History
The Battle Of Bannockburn here
Robert The Bruce here
William Wallace here