When I was younger the only mass media representations of the Robert Burns’ songs (self-penned or collected) were provided by either soprano female vocalists like Moira Anderson (the name still sends a shiver down my spine) or products of the 1960’s folk movement such as The Corries. At least the latter were an enjoyable and very entertaining relief from the perfectly enunciated and forced Scots vocals of the former. Luckily we now have the talent of people such as Dick Gaughan, Karine Polwart and many others to interpret Burns’ work in a modern setting. Add to the list, please, the name of Jake Cogan. Following the success and acclaim enjoyed by Jake Cogan and The Liberty Roses, Jake’s latest album Parcel of Rogues pays homage to Burns and some more contemporary influences.
In the opening Afton Water, the quality of Jake’s voice is immediately apparent with cool, clear vocals. The sedate pace continues with Ay Waukin O and, despite the melancholy tone, the song steps along nicely, its mellow harmonies sung with an air of happy resignation.
The title track, Parcel of Rogues, is a song that’s often sung as a rouser – a stirrer of emotion. Jake sings this rebuke against the sell-out that was the union of the parliaments as a lament, with a beautifully mournful viola and a quietly thunderous bass. By delivering a lament, Jake’s avoided the old trap of trying to stir the audience into a frenzy of nationalistic pride, and taken the song back to it’s true message – the despairingly selfish actions of the politicians of the day.
Politics and friendship were two of the most popular themes in Burns’ work. By deft manipulation of the lyrics in Here’s a Health to Them That’s Awa, Jake’s taken an overtly Jacobean song, for which Burns was criticized in his day, and turned it into a celebration of absent friends; with just a hint of contemporary politics. This should go down a storm in folk clubs across the country, with every voice in the room raised in joyful chorus. A similar approach with Ye Jacobites (but with the lyrics intact) enhances the anti-war elements of the song, which chastises the leaders of the Jacobite uprising. The battle song, Killicrankie, enjoys a decidedly upbeat and appealing treatment. This and a rousing rendition of Awa Whigs Awa will undoubtedly also receive a favourable reception in performance, they certainly inject some pace into the album.
With Green Grow The Rashes, Jake adds her name to the list of musicians who’ve succeeded in doing justice to this homage to womankind. If anything, Robert Burns is best known for his love songs, and his ability to write heart melting lyrics has never been equaled. He often combined the themes of love and nature, and never better than in the closing two tracks of the album. The Lea Rig paints a pastoral love scene that suits Jake’s gently lilting voice perfectly, with nothing more than a guitar for company. Jake was inspired to record this album after sharing a stage with Dick Gaughan, in celebration of Burns’ work. In Now Westlin Winds guitarist Sorren Maclean has successfully emulated Dick Gaughan’s approach to the guitar for this autumnal song in praise of love and nature, while the addition of slide guitar and bass drum provide a contemporary setting that makes this version every bit as accomplished, and appealing, as Dick Gaughan’s.
The predominantly acoustic setting of the album suits the songs perfectly, and recording the album live in the studio has added an air of authenticity. I’d take issue with the press release accompanying the album, though. In over-stating the transatlantic flavour of the album and claiming that Jake “…completely avoids the ‘traditional’ Scottish style so often applied to renditions of Burns’ work”, the PR does her an injustice. The melodies are authentic, and delivered with a contemporary accent that suits them perfectly, Jake’s Scots tongue is natural, unforced and a joy to hear, and the sentiments of Burns’ work are delivered faithfully. Jake Cogan doesn’t need someone to claim, on her behalf, that she’s ignored her roots and sought inspiration across the Atlantic. If you enjoy traditional Scottish song with a gentle contemporary twist, go out and buy this album now. Parcel of Rogues is refreshing, appealing and one of the finest collection of Burns songs available.
Review by: Neil McFadyen
Parcel of Rogues is released on Wrong Note Records 24 May 2012
Purchase it here
Thursday 7 June 2012 – Craigdarroch Arms Hotel, Moniaive, Dumfries & Galloway, DG3 4HN
Doors 7:30 pm, starts 8 pm, Tickets £8
Sunday 10th June 2012 (evening) – Latest Music Bar, 14-17 Manchester Street, Brighton, BN2 1TF
7:30 pm, Info: 01273 687171, Tickets £8, Tickets from Rounder, Resident, Union Lewes www.wegottickets.com
Saturday 16 June 2012 – Birchmeadow Centre, Birchmeadow Road, Broseley, Shropshire TF12 5LP.
Doors 7:30, Venue Tel: 01952 882210, Box Office No: 07890-057832 http://www.birchmeadow.org, www.wegottickets.com
Tuesday 19th June 2012 – Montrose Folk Club, The Links Hotel, Mid Links, Montrose, DD10 8RL
8 pm, doors 7.30, Info: 01674 671000, http://www.linkshotelmusic.com
Friday 22 June 2012 – Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine
Saturday 23 June 2012 – Tee in the Port Festival, Port Bannatyne Golf Club, Port Bannatyne, Isle of Bute
Thursday 28th June 2012 – Crail Folk Club, Crail Town Hall , Marketgate, Crail, Fife KY10 3TL
8 pm, Tel: 01333 450572, Tickets £6
Friday 29th June 2012 – AN TOBAR, The Tobermory Arts Centre, Argyll Terrace, Tobermory, Isle of Mull, PA75 6PB
Tel: 01688 302211
Thursday 5 July 2012 – The Star Folk Club, St Andrews in the Square, Glasgow
Tickets £9 full, £7 concession
Tuesday 24th July 2012 – Plough Arts Centre, 9-11 Fore Street, Great Torrington, Devon, EX38 8HQ
8 pm, Box Office 01805 624624, http://www.theploughartscentre.org.uk/
Tickets £9, £7 concession, £6 supporter
Thursday 26 July 2012 – Rothbury Roots, near Morpeth, Northumberland
Friday 27 July 2012 – The Hearth Arts Centre and Cafe, Main Road, Horsley, NE15 0NT
Box Office 01661 852545, tickets and start time tbc