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Monday, October 18, 2010

Hugh Morrison - Robert Burns Rocks

Hugh Morrison - Robert Burns Rocks
2010, Dun Einstein Productions

Murder The Stout front man steps out on his own with the help of many friends on Robert Burns Rocks, a collection of vibrant rockers based on the work of Robert Burns.  Enlisting the help of Johnny Rioux and Marcus Hollar from Boston’s Street Dogs; Judi Nicolson (Banchory’s Scottish Golden Fiddle champion); Kendall Rogers; Murder The Stout’s Jay Brooks and Andy Salmon; Cory Kaiser and Aoife Ni Ghloinn, Hugh Morrison finds the swarthy adolescent glee that runs through Burns best works and brings it out as only a Celtic-punk front man can.

Robert Burns Rocks opens with “Leezy Lindsay”, a courtship song from the perspective of a Scottish Lord that’s effervescent and bright.  It’s a great opener that will make you want to dance around and perhaps exchange a cloved orange or two.  “Rantin’ Rovin’ Robin” keeps the same buoyant sensibility before Morrison moves into the musically darker territory on “Ye Jacobites By Name” without losing an ounce of catchiness.  Morrison is a dynamic and rough shod vocalist, sharing some vocal lineage with Shane MacGowan.  By contrast, vocalist Aoife Ni Ghloinn, who takes the lead on “Ye Banks And Braes” offers an air of beauty to the album with a voice as smooth as cream and as stark as a red rose against the morning green. 

“Red Red Rose” is a major change of pace, a quiet and reverent instrumental consisting of piano, violin and squeezebox that’s quite lovely in its own right.  Morrison gets ultra-patriotic with “Scots Wha Hae”, a theme of the Scottish National Party and the long-time de facto national anthem of Scotland.  The Burns poem is an interpretation of the speech given by Robert Bruce before the Battle of Bannockburn.  It is a stirring moment that Morrison delivers with passion and soul.  “Awa Whigs Awa” digs into the eternal political conflict in Scotland between The Stuarts and those with Fealty to the British Crown, delivered with a distinctly traditionalist slant.  Aoife Ni Ghloinn returns with Morrison on “Ae Fond Kiss”, a sweet love song full of memory.  You’ll be kicking up your heels to “Burns Reels”, and reminiscing with Morrison on “Rigs O’ Barely”.  “Farewell To The Highlands” is an ode to the Old Sod, full of love and reverence.  Morrison closes a great punk/folk rendition of “Auld Lang Syne”.

Hugh Morrison rocks Robert Burns, or perhaps it’s the other way around, on Robert Burns Rocks.  Scotland often gets the shaft in the world of Celtic music, but Hugh Morrison gives a world-class reminder that Scotland’s rich heritage is as dynamic and intriguing.  Granted, Burns’ poetry provides the heart, but Morrison brings life and soul to Burn’s lyrics with the irreverent air of rock n roll never far away.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself seeking out Murder The Stout to see what else Morrison has done, and pining for more material from the gloriously voiced Aoife Ni Ghloinn. 

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Hugh Morrison at or Burns Rocks is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available digitally from iTunes.

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