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'a beautiful collection...utterly natural and timeless'
Home to Steve Byrne is the region of Angus on Scotland's east coast, and his first solo album is aptly titled. Best known as a founder member of the band Malinky, he's put together a beautiful collection of original songs in a traditional idiom alongside new musical settings of 19th and early 20th century verses by several poets from the area, including George Webster Donald, Violet Jacob, Helen B. Cruickshank and Marion Angus. Even when he's writing in Scots dialect, Byrne's lyrics sound utterly natural and timeless. His gentle singing style suits the material down to the ground, and he's also a superb musician, switching effortlessly between guitar, bouzouki, cittern and bodhran - not to mention a concertina drone used to dramatic effect on Cruickshank's 'April 1918'.
(by Sarah McQuaid)
Selected snippets for 'Songs from Home'

"a beautiful collection...utterly natural and timeless' HOTPRESS, Ireland

"must surely establish him as one of Scotland's finer singers in a traditional vein, and no mean songwriter either..."
fRoots June 2006

"Fine vocals and multi-instrumentalism - an intelligent debut solo album from the Malinky founder member"
Radio 2 Folk & Acoustic website

"very beautifully crafted album of songs featuring one of Scotland's finest traditional male vocalists...beautifully sung, timelessly crafted"
Debbie Koritsas,

"a force in his own right...a superior collection of songs"
Sing Out!, USA
Sing Out!, the Folksong Magazine
USA, Autumn 2006
Steve Byrne is a founding member of Malinky, but this solo venture will confirm that he's a force in his own right. Songs from Home is a superior collection of songs collected from and written in honor of Byrne's home region of Angus, a place whose dialect is as distinctive within Scotland as a Geordie accent is in England. Byrne features the lyrics of poets such as George Webster Donald (1819-1891), Violet Jacob (1863-1946) and Marion Angus (1866-1946), and he gives interesting arrangements to each selection, some times inadvertently! For example, he set Donald's "The Bonnie Lass o' Carnie" to the tune of "Dainty Davy" only to learn that Donald used a Robert Bums tune. The lyrics often reflect the sentimentality expected from late Victorian and Edwardian poetry, but these are Scots after all. Violet Jacob's "Hogmanay" is an amusing commentary on celebratory imbibing, which Byrne sings a cappella in music hall style. He's not shy about innovating. He adds drone loops to give ambience to "April 1918," Helen Cruikshank's solemn World War I poem, and finishes it with an echo of his own "The Lang Road Doon," a Malinky favorite. "Pawkie Adam Glen," an Alexander Laing poem from the 1830s, is the closest thing you can get to a mouth music song with non-nonsense syllables, and then there's "The Seaward Toon," a Marion Angus poem he reworks with the experimental soundscaping one might associate with Paul Mounsey. Byrne's two original compositions are often the ones which sound most 'traditional,' and each is a gem. "The Ither Lass" is a bittersweet song of a man trapped between his present and past love, and "Leavin' Angus in the Mornin'" has an ancient nautical flair. Dorothy was right: there's no place like home.--RWeir

fRoots June 2006 issue

As if his lead role in Malinky wasn't enough, Steve Byrne's first solo album must surely establish him as one of Scotland's finer singers in a traditional vein, and no mean songwriter either. Songs From Home maintains a strong sense of place, featuring songs and poems set to music from the Angus area where he was brought up. Writers include Violet Jacobs, Helen Cruickshank and Marion Angus, with Steve's own tunes, or arrangements of traditional ones, making them sound like songs you've always half-known.His own songs (The Ither Lass, Leavin Angus In The Morning) stand up well in such company, and it all makes for a highly listenable album worth seeking out.
second review by Nicky Rossiter
Maybe we have been taught Scottish dialects from the popularity of Robbie Burns' compositions that have traveled the world. Steve Byrne is a writer and singer of an almost similar surname, writing and singing in his home dialect, and the magic is recreated.

The connection to the elder Burns is not just in his use of dialect; Byrne was a major force in four volumes of the Complete Songs of Robert Burns. His musical pedigree also features membership of the group Malinky.

If your only knowledge of Angus is the breed of cattle, be prepared to be educated. On this CD you can experience the joys, sorrows and wild beauty of the geographical area as Byrne puts the songs and poems of his native area on the world stage.

His opening track, "The Ither Lass," shows his talent as the first song he wrote in his native dialect at the tender age of 18 years. At the time he was a country lad in the big bold city and thinking of his childhood. "The Bonnie Lass o' Cairnie" is one of the best tracks on offer here. It combines an old poem with some traditional music rearranged by Byrne to produce a wonderful song. For a song of leaving, have a close listen to "Leavin Angus in the Mornin'." Sung without accompaniment, it has the raw sound that people who have ever left their home place will know only too well.

Perhaps the best known of Burns' songs is "Auld Lang Syne" -- another song we love without a clue what it means -- the musical signpost of New Years Eve all over the world. Here Byrne takes a poem by Violet Jacob to give us a song to the Scots version of that celebration, "Hogmanay."

Listening to this album one is reminded of all the great poems that have been written over the centuries. Sadly, poetry reading is a minority pleasure in our hectic age. Steve Byrne helps us recapture that old pleasure by setting poetry to music and seldom does it better than on "Young Jessie o' Bonnie Dundee."

This combination of old and new resonates through the entire album with some very short songs, some unaccompanied pieces and all very well performed tracks. An added bonus is the delightful insert giving the lyrics, background and sources of the songs.

by Nicky Rossiter
20 May 2006
Songlines May 2006
A self-styled "Paddy-Jock", the son of an Irish father and a Scottish mother, Steve Byrne grew up in Arbroath in the county of Angus on Scotland's east coast. Now based in Edinburgh, he is best known as co-lead singer previously alongside Karine Polwart with the band Malinky, in which he sings a wide variety of traditional material, while having also emerged as a songwriter of increasing note. On his first solo album Byrne revisits his childhood haunts, celebrating the Angus language and landscape in settings of 19th and early 20th century poems by local writers, alongside two of his own compositions and a translated Norwegian ballad.
Without implying any disrespect to the poets, I could have done with a few more Byrne originals, given the calibre of his work with Malinky and of the two numbers featured here - 'The Ither Lass' and 'Leavin' Angus in the Mornin". There are some real gems among the rest of the tracks, though, among them
a buoyant arrangement of George W Donald's parted-lover's paean, 'Young Jessie o' Bonnie Dundee', a nimble a capella rendition of Violet Jacob's 'Hogmanay', positively crackling with festive high jinks, and a hypnotic setting of Marion Angus' enigmatic yet eerily evocative 'The Seaward Toon'. A few songs seem somewhat underdeveloped, whether melodically or vocally, but the whole project is palpably infused with Byrne's deep love for his milieu and material, which is as evident in the rich colours and sensitive nuances of his singing as in the detailed sleeve-notes to the songs, their sources and their original authors.
beautifully sung, timelessly crafted...
"I am an addict of the lyric voice of my home county, Angus." It seems that folksong and the work of the Angus poets are inextricably linked for Malinky founding member Steve Byrne -- a musician who is constantly in demand as a highly accomplished accompanist by the likes of the Emily Smith Band.

Songs From Home is a very beautifully crafted album of songs featuring one of Scotland's finest traditional male vocalists -- it's a true, honest voice that constantly betrays Steve's eastern lowland roots.

The album features just two guest musicians, Tore Bruvoll on guitar and Chris Wright on mandolin, and their contributions are very welcome. Steve produced the album himself, and in terms of recording quality, it's excellent; the pristine, clear vocals and mandolin are perfectly balanced by the warm, rich tones of guitar, bouzouki, cittern and bodhran. The playing is exquisitely crafted throughout.

Songs From Home opens with an Angus-dialect song of unrequited love that Steve wrote at age 18, called "The Ither Lass." The poetry that so inspires him was written many years ago by Marion Angus, George Webster Donald, Violet Jacob, Helen B Cruickshank and Alexander Laing.

These are really beautiful lyric poems, including Violet Jacobs' nostalgia-filled "Howe o' the Mearns." There's rhythm and drama in the fine Marion Angus poem, "The Seaward Toon," and in the bodhran-enriched pipe tune, "Pawkie Adam Glen."

Songs From Home is a beautifully sung, timelessly crafted collection that really grows on the listener with each listen, and an album that celebrates a culturally rich area of Scotland. Recommended for listeners who appreciate music that comes from the heart.

by Debbie Koritsas
20 May 2006
The Scotsman***
24 February 2006
THIS accomplished debut solo album from the co-founder of Malinky focuses on his vocal interpretations of songs and poems from his native Angus, including a couple of his own songs. That continuity of material from a single region gives the disc a nicely focused feel in these days of rampant eclecticism on the folk scene, although he does throw in a Norwegian song as well. The instrumental accompaniments are largely string-driven - he plays guitar, bouzouki, cittern and bodhran, with occasional support from Tore Bruvoll on guitar and Chris Wright on mandolin.
The Herald
by Rob Adams, 25 Feb 2006
STEVE Byrne has championed songs from his native Angus before in the popular Malinky group and, on this first solo album, he deals a full pack. Some are his own, written in a traditional style, but most use lyrics by poets including Violet Jacob and Marion Angus, set either to Byrne's melodies or traditional tunes. Byrne sings softly but proudly in dialect and uses guitar accompaniment and studio techniques well to bring tales of past loves, past times, glens, toons and worthies into the modern day while retaining an auld country character. It's a commendable if slightly studied work with the highlight being Rose Song, translated from Norwegian into Angus brogue to a bluesy guitar accompaniment by Tore Bruvoll and recalling Martin Simpson's Mississippi deltafication of English traditional ballads.
Malinky-man Steve might live and work in Scotland's capital, but his heart is where his roots are - on the northeast coast in Angus. He has set the work of poets writing in the rich language of this region to music, adding two of his own compositions, on his first solo CD, recorded almost completely on his own. A running time of less than 40 minutes might cause a frown, but the quality of the music doubly compensates. On the one hand the compositions flow authentically in the Angus tradition, on the other hand Steve emerges as an intense and richly varied singer. The CD is quite a positive surprise.

Malinky-Mann Steve Byrne mag zwar in der schottischen Hauptstadt wohnen und arbeiten, sein Herz ist da, wo seine Wurzeln sind - an der Nordostküste, in Angus. Dichter in der reichen Sprache dieser Region hat er vertont, zwei Stücke selber beigesteuert und seine erste Solo-CD fast im Alleingang aufgenommen. Eine Spielzeit von unter 40 Minuten sorgt zwar mindestens für Stirnrunzeln, aber die Qualität der Musik macht dieses Manko zweifach wett. Zum einen bewegen sich die Kompositionen stimmig in der Angus-Tradition, zum anderen entpuppt sich Steve als intensiver und variationsreicher Sänger. Die CD ist einfach eine positive Überraschung.
Mike Kamp

Scotland on Sunday
by Norman Chalmers, 12 February 2006
This gathering of songs from the Angus-bred singer and fret player from Scots band Malinky is more an assertion of personal identity than a hansel to the glens, Mearns and tenacious coastal townships of his youth. Opening with a self-penned song, he moves through George Webster Donald's 19th-century verse and poems by Helen Cruickshank and Violet Jacob. Auld Scots favourite 'Pawkie Adam Glen' gets an airing, and there's a translation of a moving Norwegian song. This reviewer's heart was touched most by the beautiful guitar playing of Norwegian Tore Bruvoll, and the dark passion in the pre-war poetry of Marion Angus.

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