EWAN MCLENNAN: Llantrisant Folk Club
Ewan McLennan is very special; in five short years he graduated from a young floor act attending Scottish folk clubs to a significant force to be reckoned with, a compelling singer who uses his commanding voice to shape and enhance his tradition and to draw enthusiasts in and move them emotionally, a rock-steady and very flexible guitarist and a songwriter for whom social justice is still the battle banner.
The most accurate description about the London-born and Edinburgh-raised musician is: Ewan hits his audience like a velvet boxing glove. He delivers a knockout blow; however, he does it the quiet and steady way, and it’s all wrapped up and packaged with his regard, respect and love of Scots music done the old way. He talks about the Aberdeenshire travelling tradition and the famous Stewart family, ending with the well-known pot-boiler ‘Jock Stewart’, which has been pummelled to death by a thousand Scots, Irish and English bands. But Ewan moulds and shapes the song until it comes alive, sparkling and so proud.
He interprets another old Scots chorus song, ‘The Shearing’, and he injects it with a fresh look and a new zest. He fashions and polishes the song until the melody and the words shine bright; but Ewan respects and loves the Scots tradition and he never tinkers with it.
As far as writing goes, Ewan plants himself firmly on the side of the working people. He introduces ‘The Song Of The Lower Classes’, the poem written by Chartist Ernest Jones, who was imprisoned for two years for his beliefs; Ewan’s most famous song/story was ‘Whistling The Esperanza’, which cameras and microphones recorded him performing in the last BBC4 Transatlantic Sessions series, with musicians including Jerry Douglas, Donald Shaw, John McCusker and Mike McGoldrick accompanying him. Ewan stood alone on the Club stage as he told of the incredible rescue in the San Jose mine, and his song carried all before him – it was that entrancing. Everyone stayed to the end of his 45-minute sets; Ewan has built up audiences to a great degree because of his reputation, which is richly deserved.