This is a new review of Handpicked and Collected from the Dutch music festival info website
Dutch and a folk fan? I have something nice for you. Handpicked & Collected by Scottish singer-songwriter Tom Clelland. You've probably never heard of him, but with his soothing voice and excellent guitar playing, this compilation album is worth listening.
This double CD is filled with remastered work and one new song, ‘Berries’. On CD number one, Handpicked, this is new songs and seven other quiet songs. They all tell a story about Scottish history. ‘Dig’ is about the First World War, in which Clelland fought both grandfathers, ‘The Wind She Changed’ was written during the Second Gulf War and ‘Berries’ tells the story of the growers in Clyde Valley.
The narrative and quiet in the songs is great, but not surprising. Almost all of the songs are fingerpicked, a handsome technique that clearly dominates Clelland to the smallest extent. However, almost every song is played in this way, which gives you eight times the same performance. Fish and chips are delicious, but also not days in a row. Even the bagpipes on ‘Dig Lochanside’ and ‘Carrion Craw’ are not really remarkable in the work of a Scottish musician.
And then Collected slips into the player. It feels like we just walked into a saloon where the local musician took his guitar on a Sunday afternoon. "So you go out drinking, there's a voice in your head, slowdown." Supplemented with a jazz piano, this song sounds very different from Handpicked. Here's a variety of sounds: bluegrass on ‘A Day Like This’, country on ‘Country Music Once Again’, a delicious guitar belt on ‘Send Me Another Smile’, a slightly more robust song in ‘What’s Waiting For You’ and the reflective, certainly not clichéd ‘Let It Snow’. All numbers have two large common divisions: Clelland's relaxed voice and accurate guitar playing; He doesn't play too much and every pick sounds at the right time.
After 23 songs, Clelland turns the microphone aside and puts his guitar in the stand. Davie Scott also comes from behind all his instruments. The spontaneously entered audience calculates and begins to move toward the exit of the Scottish pub. They walk home. They are a richer name and now know that Handpicked & Collected is a worthy addition to their CD collection.
and this one's from the Dutch magazine Keys and Chords
Beautiful interesting stories from a real Scottish singer-songwriter, who also plays American countryfolk. It's time to discover!
Although always a lover of folk, I had never heard of the Scotsman Tom Clelland.
And so there will be many of us, unaware of the missed stories of a singer-songwriter pur sang. An acoustic guitar and a pleasant voice have been enough to please a small fan base for several decades. Handpicked & Collected is a double CD of mostly older work, remastered as it should be in this day and age. Only "Berries" was an unreleased song. As befits a singer-songwriter, he only knows how to entertain the audience. Only occasionally does he allow himself to be without any high points.
The second CD Collected moves more towards American country folk. Or doesn't the old school country song 'Slowdown' make you think of a saloon where the buffet piano is not only furniture? The pedal steel in 'A Day Like This' is fingered by Willie Gamble and the keyboard by Davie Scott. The latter takes care of most of the instruments by the way. Great songs with some boogie woogie and bluegrass embellishments.
This collection satisfies both the British and the American folk fan. That double in his oeuvre is perhaps also the reason for his relative obscurity. High time to expand our knowledge!
Thanks to both reviewers. I hope to return to Netherlands next year.
Many thanks to Iain Anderson on Radio Scotland who made the new CD his featured album of the week.
Iain said this on Facebook -
"This week's featured album is 'Handpicked & Collected' by Tom Clelland, a double-CD collection of remastered tracks by the Lanarkshire songwriter who we haven’t featured in quite a while. Nice to rediscover his catalogue in this handpicked format. CD one includes story songs digging into Scottish history and legend, and CD two is an assortment of old favourites, specialising in love songs, nostalgia and gentle Americana, all performed with utmost modesty and warmheartedness."
To listen to Iain's past shows, follow this link -
This review from FolkLondon Magazine. Thanks to Joe Whittaker and James Eagle of FolkLondon.
"One of the many joys I get from reviewing albums is the discovery of artists completely unknown to me until I press Play. Tom Clelland is one such, a Lanark-based singer-songwriter who had not hit my radar but has clearly been productive over a number of years,with four albums previous to this one.
"It is from these four albums and live tracks that Tom and his producer and musical right-hand man, Davie Scott, have selected and remastered the tracks for this 23-track album.
"There are a number of reasons why compilation albums are favoured and one of the most popular and effective is to allow the best of the back catalogue to be crystallised for a fresh audience to appreciate.
"Tom is clearly a consummate storyteller and plays guitar well above average and over the four albums has had the good fortune to attract some of the best accompanists around.
"His storytelling songs feature on the eight tracks of the Handpicked component. Dig evokes the trenches of the first world war and concludes with a lone piper playing the track out. Carrion Craw, a prizewinner in a song competition , commemorates the Battle of Harlaw in 1411 and Mairearad Green again provides her expertise on pipes to enhance the sonic atmosphere.
"The previously unrecorded Berries harks back to the soft fruit farms of the Clyde Valley and the passage of the seasons and just how much has changed.
"The second component of the album, Collected, mainly comprises Tom's country-themed songs such as Country Music Once Again and I Wish That I Could Write Like Old Guy Clark.
"To make any mark as a songwriter or performer in the crowded and Nashville-centric market is an uphill struggle but these songs are joined by gems such as What's Waiting For You - about Clydesdale horses - or Next Time , about how things might be different , including our own behaviour, if we were to come back for second go at life.
"Altogether a nice surprise which makes me want to see and hear Tom perform live."
This is the review of Handpicked and Collected from the August edition of Living Tradition. Thanks, Fiona.
"This is a double compilation CD from the Scottish singer songwriter, showcasing examples of his work from previous albums and other projects. It has a laid-back, gentle feel throughout, making the most of Tom’s easy style of delivery, warm familiar-feeling voice and nicely finger-picked guitar.
"The first disc, Handpicked, features eight “story songs”, some from his own albums along with one from a Lanarkshire Songwriters project, a live recording from a David Roberts tribute evening in the Elphinstone, and an unreleased song, Berries, that’s got a familiar, folky vibe to it – a song I can definitely imagine being picked up and sung by others.
"The second CD, Collected, boasts 15 songs from previous albums, Little Stories, Life Goes On and Next Time, as well as a track from A Garden Of Songs, adapted from a Robert Louis Stevenson poem. This CD has a bit more of a country / Americana feel to it in places, and includes a great song, I Wish That I Could Write Like Old Guy Clark (don’t we all!). Ironically, it actually does sound like it could be a Guy Clark song, as do a couple of others here (e.g. Jack Jackson and Slip Away), so Tom’s not doing so badly.
"Tom and his guitar are front and centre in these recordings, but he has gathered a fine group of other musicians around him, and their contributions are sensitively made. They include Clive Gregson and Steven Polwart on guitars, Wendy Weatherby on cello, Mairearad Green on pipes and accordion, and producer/arranger Davie Scott on “all other instruments” and occasional harmonies.
"I love the honest sentiment of Next Time and Let It Snow, the wry observation of life in Slow Down, the storytelling of The Grassmarket Butchers and The Devil And The Hangman, and the clever lines in Country Music Once Again (“don’t let those fiddles turn to violins.”). I’d happily spend an evening in the company of Tom and his songs in a folk club somewhere, when we finally can."
This review of Handpicked and Collected is from the Folking website. Thanks, David.
"While I was not well-acquainted with the work of Tom Clelland, I’ve always liked songs that tell a story, so I was immediately drawn to his new CD release Handpicked & Collected. The compilation consists of 23 tracks mastered/remastered by Kris Koren and spread over two CDs. Handpicked is a selection of eight story songs – including the previously unreleased ‘Berries’ – with a Scottish connection, while Collected features a wider range of themes and influences.
All the songs are credited to Tom except for ‘How Far Is It To Babylon’, of which the lyric is adapted (very successfully) from Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem To Minnie. Tom sings and plays guitar on all tracks, but a number of very capable musicians provide support on various songs (but not all at once), notably Mairearad Green on pipes and accordion; Wendy Weatherby, Don Dougall and Joanne Grant on cello; Steven Polwart, Clive Gregson and Robin Laing on guitar; Norman Chalmers on concertina; Willie Gamble on pedal steel; Fiona Cuthill and Pete Clark on fiddle; Alistair Kennedy and Kris Koren on mandolin; Phil Sakerski on dobro; and Davie Scott on “all other instruments“. Rather an impressive guest list.
Though the first CD favours Scotland in its subject matter, the actual themes of these stories cover a wide range – the Great War (‘Dig’), the Gulf War (‘The Wind She Changed’), the 15th century Battle of Harlaw (‘Carrion Craw’), the persecution of the Covenanters (‘The Grassmarket Butchers’), the supernatural (‘The Ghost Wi’ The Squeaky Wheel’), whimsy (‘The Balancing Boy’) and “the passage of the seasons” (the previously unreleased ‘Berries’). All told with unassuming grace and subtlety.
"While there’s an Americana-ish tinge to some of the tracks on Handpicked, there’s a more pervasive country feel to many of the tracks on Collected, as well as a fuller instrumentation. Which is all fine by me: there are worse things than admiring Guy Clark (‘I Wish That I Could Write Like Old Guy Clark’), or writing the pop-y ‘Send Me Another Smile’. And if there isn’t a ‘Desperados Waiting For A Train’ on Collected, ‘Stormclouds At A Distance’ and ‘Let It Snow’ have an emotional pull of their own, though perhaps my own favourite track is the Stevenson setting ‘How Far Is It To Babylon’ (sic).
Tom Clelland has a pleasant voice, plays effective guitar, and has attracted some first-class instrumental support. But the real treasures here are the songs. For me, the tracks on Handpicked are the most interesting, but the country vibe on Collected is never less than engaging and includes some classy songwriting and performance, with some very singable choruses. And while cover art isn’t something I generally comment on, there’s something very pleasing about Savannah Storm’s floral paintings."
The CD is on sale at the shop here now. £11.00. You'll also find it on Amazon.
Thanks again for visiting.
Accompanying me at the Oak in August would have been Wendy Weatherby on cello/bass but, unfortunately, the gig was cancelled because of COVID. Marianne, Charlotte and Heather decided that the 2021 Festival Folk at the Oak couldn't go ahead as planned. Too many complications! Thanks for trying, Marianne, Charlotte and Heather. Maybe next year!