Smithfield Fair’s Jacobites By Name

cover, Jacobites by NameFor anyone who is of the firm opinion that the Battle of Culloden was the darkest moment in the history of western civilization, Smithfield Fair‘s Jacobites By Name is the album you’ve been waiting for. If you’re not craving a big old steaming hunk of haggis by the time the last song fades from your stereo speakers, you’ve not got the least smidgen of Scottish blood in your veins.

The first track, “Wha’ll Be King But Cherlie?” is one of the strongest on the disc and kicks things off to a rousing start. Almost a chant, the movement sings the praises of Bonnie Prince Charlie, paced by Frang Bladen’s driving bodhran. Jan Smith’s accordion and Dudley-Brian Smith’s guitar add just the right measures to bring the whole thing together. The track overall reminded me of early Clannad, when that group’s vocals were sung in unison rather than in harmony, and the arrangements were more straightforward and less slick. The song is given a layered, textured sound that works well, rather than ghostly harmonies.

Another strong piece is the title track “Ye Jacobites by Name.” Dudley-Brian Smith’s rapid-fire guitar reminds me of the flamenco stylings of the Gypsy Kings. There’s still a Scottish mood to the piece – how could there not be, when the subject is Scottish rebellion? – but the arrangement contributes an interesting and entertaining international flavour. Jan Smith contributes the first original piece on the disc, “Piper’s Plaid,” which is more a showcase for her buoyant accordion work than the title would suggest. Her “Sheep in the Road” is pleasantly frivolous and jaunty. Jan’s vocals also shine on the eerie and atmospheric “The Silkie/The Song of the Mermaid,” as foggy and wet a song as any I’ve heard.

“My Bonnie Moorhen” is another great atmospheric song Jan’s vocals handle well, with excellent guitar work from Dudley-Brian. The piece is very moody, and evocative of their Highland Call album. Jan also has great fun with “One Misty Morning/Doon the Rushy Glen,” but how could she not with this whirligig of a song about the Scottish wee folk? “He was clothed all in leather, with a cap beneath his chin, singin’ how-d’ye do, and how d’ye do, and how d’ye do again.”

Dudley-Brian also contributes several original pieces, all of which are interesting. “Back Where We Belong/A Tinker’s Dram” is a surprisingly modern-sounding piece which traces the story of modern-day tinkers, who supposedly originated from the dispersed and homeless Scots after the Battle of Culloden. The ominously dark “When Auld Crooked Mouth” is much more retro in feel. The lyrics (which concern clan warfare and the policies of “might makes right”) are strengthened by the brogue that Dudley-Brian adopts for his vocal delivery.

His original “Lord George Will Lead Us” paired with “Scotland The Brave,” (the penultimate selection on the disc), is a rousing, guitar-laced anthem to the military prowess of Lord George: “Lord George will lead us on to victory. Never doubt and never fear – Scotland shall be free! Lord George will lead us into history. Ever believe and ever know that Scotland must be free!”

Finally, I have to mention the track “The Braes O’ Birniebouzle/Charlie is My Darlin’ ” simply because I found it so oddly disconcerting. There’s nothing wrong with the ditty per se – it is, after all, a traditional song about a marriage proposal – but the accordion hook, a loopy little musical refrain, hit me right out of left field. It sounds for all the world like the “Heffalumps and Woozles” song from “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day!” Of course, the song predates the Disney animation by a considerable amount, and for all I know, composers Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman may very well have lifted the music for their honey-drenched nightmare sequence. But regardless of which came first it’s still a dodgy thing to try and wrap one’s brain around.

Overall, Jacobites By Name is a solid effort, positively oozing all things Scottish. It’s not quite in the same league as Cairdeas (Kinship), but it’s not far off. Of course, I’ve come to expect nothing less from Smithfield Fair.

(Centaur Records, 2002)

Jayme Lynn Blaschke

Jayme Lynn Blaschke currently resides in New Braunfels, Texas, home of the world's largest waterpark. He works in the media relations department of Texas State University, and also serves as fiction editor for A member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, his short fiction runs the gamut from hard SF to urban fantasy. His short fiction has appeared in various markets including Interzone and Writers of the Future, and a collection of his interviews entitled Voices of Vision: Creators of Science Fiction and Fantasy Speak has been published by the University of Nebraska Press. His Web site can be found here

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