10 tracks: Jock o’ Hazeldean * The Shearin * Willie’s Gone Tae Melville Castle * As A Come In By Fisherrow * Isobelle * Mercat Fair Lass * The Fisherrow Belles * Blantyre * Witch Hunt * Mary Let Me Tak Ye Dancin
ALEX HODGSON is from Prestonpans, East Lothian, close to the office of Greentrax Recordings. He carries on the fine tradition of Prestonpans song writing from the late Davy Steele. Alex was a finalist in the ‘Burnsong’ song writing competition in 2005 and 2009 and since then he has appeared live on the BBC Radio Scotland hogmanay show and with Robbie Shepherd’s popular BBC Radio Scotland programme ‘Take The Floor’. In addition, he sang at the Scottish Parliament, the Queen’s Ghillie Ball at Balmoral, the Waterside Theatre, Capetown, South Africa, and has appeared at the Caledonian Society Ball in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
He has a keen love of Scottish variety theatre and has himself appeared locally in many amateur stage productions. His interest in storytelling has also seen him appearing at Newton Mearns Storytelling Festival and workshops at the City Arts Centre, Edinburgh, and he also entertains children. If that is not enough, Alex appears on Forth 2 Radio programme ‘The Best of Scottish’, presented by Kenny Hutchison, and performs a new song weekly live. He has also presented ‘The Sunday Gaitherin’ on Radio Borders. Alex is a born entertainer!
The remarkable thing is that Alex remained unknown to Greentrax Recordings until 2009 when Ian Green heard of his second ‘Burnsong’ success and received a demo CD. Alex was immediately signed by Greentrax, as one of the most promising debut recording artists to come to Greentrax in this way. Alex recorded his album ‘Jeelie Jars ‘n’ Coalie Backies’ in Castle Sound Studios, Pencaitland, under the guiding hand of producer Kenny Hutchison and the magic fingers and ears of engineer Stuart Hamilton.
The session musicians read like a ‘whose who’ of Scottish music, including Kenny (piano, Hammond organ, accordion and synth) who is a vocal coach, broadcaster, music teacher and musical director and leader of the Edinburgh band The Flavours; Calais Brown (guitars and mandolin) is also a member of The Flavours, he has toured with The Mavericks, played in many Edinburgh bands and sessioned in Nashville; Kevin McGuire (double bass) has played in many Scottish bands for years and more recently toured with both Karine Polwart and Eddi Reader; Jim McDermott (drums and percussion) has performed with Simple Minds, Gun, Deacon Blue, The Silencers and Del Amitri and was the drummer on BBC TV’s ‘Tutti Frutti’; David Paton (bass guitar) spent most of the 70’s as leader of Pilot, toured long-term with Elton John and has appeared with many others including Paul McCartney; Tony Kime (violin) gained a music honours degree and was a BBC recording engineer but is now retired and arranges music for strings; Jennifer Leitch (backing vocals) has a background in musical theatre and James Mackintosh (ukulele) can be heard regularly in Edinburgh venues.
Alex has written seven of the eleven songs and his love of the Lothians, in particular, but Scotland in general, are etched in the lyrics of his songs. His deep love for his wife ‘Isobelle’ shines through in that track; ‘Mercat Fair Lass’ is based on the history of local fairs and The Mercat Cross of Prestonpans, which still stands today. The beauty of a field of red poppies inspired the wonderful ‘Inveresk’ on the outskirts of Musselburgh; ‘Witch Hunt’ is the story of witches hunted down in East Lothian; ‘Fisherrow Belles’ looks at the women who were the backbone of the fishing industry in the glory days; ‘Blantyre’ is in memory of the miners of Scotland’s worst mining disaster of 1877. ’Mary Let Me Tak’ Ye Dancin’ is a humorous look at his parents’ dancing days and visits to the ‘picture house’ or cinema.
Of the four traditional songs – ’Willie’s Gon’ Tae Melville Castle’ and ‘As A Come in by Fisherrow’ further reflects the history of the Lothians and ‘The Shearin’ and ‘Jock o’ Hazeldean’ are fine examples of good Scottish songs.
This is a particularly good album, not only because of Alex’s fine voice and his song writing skills, but also the excellent arrangements of the music by Kenny Hutchison and the outstanding execution by the session musicians, giving new life to the traditional songs, and full justice to Alex’s own songs. The whole album is clearly traditional in style but has a very modern feel to it.
The photography is by Alex Hodgson Jnr. and Zvonko Kracun and the cover design is also by Alex Hodgson Jnr. Layout and general design by John Slavin.
The Greentrax team feel a real sense of pride in first of all signing someone from their very own doorstep - who had remained unknown so long to Ian Green – but secondly releasing an album to be proud of.
‘Jeelie jars’ are jam or fruit preserve jars and ‘coalie backies’ is carrying someone on your back, usually a child.