INTO THE LIGHT
1.The opium of the people4:39 2.Kildonan Strath5:27 3.The lion of Donegal6:10 4.No forgiveness2:17 5.Eternity6:44 6.Light from the east4:05 7.The lost Road3:59 8.Masters of the universe3:31 9.The twilight of the gods5:38 10.Into the light6:20
INTO THE LIGHT Songs
The opium of the people
Karl Marx famously called religion the opium of the people. The Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz, replied "A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death - the huge solace of thinking that our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders are not going to be judged".
I was born and grew up in the Strath of Kildonan in Sutherland, an area rich in archeological remains stretching back over thousands of years. Two hundred years ago it was also the scene of the some of the worst of the infamous Highland Clearances when people were evicted from their homes to make way for large sheep farms. People talk a lot now of conserving this "wilderness" area, not realising that it's a very recent creation.
The lion of Donegal
James Duffy from Donegal was my distant relation by marriage. He won the Victoria Cross (the highest British military award for bravery) during World War I. His life in returning to a changed Ireland after the war was not easy.
Forgiveness is one of the hardest things in life. But if we don't forgive, we can't expect to be forgiven. "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."
As the new millennium dawned on New Years Day 2000, one of the first celebrations was in Sydney, Australia. Beamed around the world was one word lit in 50 foot high letters on Sydney Harbour Bridge - the word "Eternity". It had become a kind of motto of the city. This song tells the story of how that came about.
Light from the east
Korean pastor Rev TaeDae Yoon came to Scotland as a missionary (just as Scottish missionaries had gone to Korea in the past). In December 2016, he began 40 days of prayer for Scotland. On the shortest and darkest day of the year, 21 December, he died. It was my privilege to have known him. I wrote this in his honour.
The Lost Road
You know how sometimes you don't know which path to take in life, or if you're on the right track? An experience I had during one of the toughest times in my life, when a physical track became a metaphor for my inner struggles, proved the inspiration for this song.
Masters of the universe
This is an ironic take on many of the unquestioned "values" of the present day establishment (and has nothing to do with Marvel Comics!)
The twilight of the gods
The original version of this song was written years ago and lay unperformed and unrecorded for ages. I revisited it, rewrote the ending and changed some of the music, and I think it now expresses what I intended. It deals with a similar theme to the previous song, but in a story form - the inconsistency of the prevailing worldview in the West.
Into the light
In 2016 my friend Murdo Murchison was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour. He started writing an online blog, and this song was inspired by the story of his life (many of the words and expressions are his own). He's "Flying high with undaunted heart into the light".
1.A92:44 2.Angel of the North4:36 3.Where are you tonight?4:44 4.Love Is2:53 5.Before we could say more3:53 6.Turn away from your memories4:08 7.Changes4:26 8.Ring of the rainbow2:33 9.Stand your ground4:21 10.Restless men4:30 11.Dream of Kintail5:12 12.The thin red line5:48
Dylan had his Highway 61, Bobby Troup had his Route 66, and I've got my A9! I grew up not far from the north end of the A9 and now I live at its southern end in Edinburgh.
Angel of the North
I heard a song by Paulo Nutini that mentioned something about an angel and Scotland. That set me thinking of "angel of the north". Then for some reason a line from an old traditional song came into my head - "lily of the west". From there on it was just a matter of thinking of everything that would rhyme with "west"!
Where are you tonight?
Sometimes someone you love is far away or out of reach, and all you can do is long for them and pray for them.
Love exists. The biggest question of life is why? Each verse speaks of a different experience of love.
Before we could say more
There's no easy way to deal with the heartbreak of a relationship coming to an end.
Turn away from your memories
Donnie Smith wrote this back in the late 60s or early 70s. It's a sad, but beautiful farewell song. Sometimes we just have to turn away.
I wrote this song for Evelyn for our Silver Wedding.
Ring of the Rainbow
I was flying over the Minch. I was going through one of the hardest times of my life. Out the window I suddenly saw a Brocken Spectre - the sun cast a shadow of the plane on the cloud below and it was surrounded by a circular rainbow. I knew there was an invisible protection around me and that God's promises still held true.
Stand your ground
Sometimes when you're under attack, all you can do is stand.
This is another Donnie Smith composition, and it's a beautiful evocation of that feeling of seeing others leaving to seek their fortunes, but you stay. It's kind of ironic that Donnie is the one who went "into the setting sun", and we stayed behind!
Dream of Kintail
There are several versions of this song, but this is the one my father used to sing. He got it from a Miss Macleod of Caithness in the 1920s. You can hear my father sing it at Tobar an Dualchais. The version composed by Curliana Dingwall in 1904 seems quite different.
The Thin Red Line
The 93rd regiment (the Sutherland Highlanders) was raised in Strath Naver in 1800. In 1814 they were sent to America in the disastrous campaign that ended at New Orleans, while at home in Strath Naver their people were being evicted from their homes by the servants of the Countess of Sutherland. But it was in the Crimea War they achieved their lasting fame as "the thin red line" at the battle of Balaclava. Holywood has stolen this title for a film about the American army. I'm stealing it back.
LIKE THE RIVER
1.The Fall of Tam Moncrieff10:37 2.All the Night is Empty3:35 3.Big Man Big Heart8:06 4.The Glory3:35 5.Newfoundland4:05 6.The Tay Boat Song6:36 7.Tears3:06 8.He Stands a Beggar8:03 9.Scotland’s Story4:28 10.The Runner7:55 11.Bon Accord5:45 12.The Shepherd’s Song4:05
LIKE THE RIVER songs
The Fall of Tam Moncrieff
This song is the most recent and unlike anything else I have written. It does of course tell a story (and it’s long!) So in that way it is similar to others I have written. I have always loved stories and songs that tell stories. I suppose it goes back to listening to some of the old songs my father used to sing when I was a boy. This one is very cinematic. In fact I think I could write the screenplay for it! It came to me in a series of pictures or scenes. At first I wasn’t sure if they all belonged together in the same story, but gradually they blended into one. It’s different from my other songs in that there is very little grace in it. It’s summed up by what one of the characters says: “I’ve come in judgement, not in grace.” Ultimately it’s one or the other.
All the Night
This was written in the late Sixties. It's about a girl I knew then whose life seemed empty, until she met someone who really loved her. Donald Forsyth's guitar part really brings it to life.
Big Man Big Heart
Douglas MacMillan died on the 3rd of August 1991. Evelyn and I had been with him and Mary at a wedding the day before. The news came as a big shock. Douglas had been a spiritual inspiration to many of us. He was one of my heroes. All was well if Douglas was there. And now he wasn’t there or to be more precise, he wasn’t here. As it turned out I wasn’t able to get to the Memorial Service in Edinburgh or the funeral in Ardnamurchan. A few weeks later I was ill, and this song came to me in one go. Big man, big heart.
This is all about oppression in various forms, about how people can take all sorts of things from you, but there’s one thing they can’t take… or is there?
I first heard this being performed by The Corries. It has always been one of my favourite folk songs.
The Tay Boat Song
My father had a bad stutter when he spoke. But he had a great singing voice (far better than mine) and he had no speech impediment when he sang, whether precenting the Psalms or singing at weddings and ceilidhs. The Tay Boat Song was one of his best. This is a different arrangement and was recorded live.
This is a difficult song to sing. It is about failure to live up to what you hold to. But there's hope there too.
This was written some time in the early Nineties when there was talk about looking for a new national anthem for Scotland. I had a go, but it turned into this, which tries to tell the whole history of Scotland in five minutes!
He Stands a Beggar
Lachlan MacKenzie was an eighteenth century preacher in Lochcarron. He once preached in Aberdeen and the more sophisticated citizens of Aberdeen thought his appearance somewhat uncouth. But he began his sermon by telling a story, and by the time he finished you could have heard a pin drop. I thought it worth turning into a song.
My brother, Donald, was a surgeon in central India for 15 years. While there he treated a man who had rabies. The anti-rabies serum Donald took caused a reaction which led to his developing MS. In his younger days he was a great runner, especially cross-country. At a summer camp in 1991 I realised Donald would never run again. I wrote this for him.
In 1993 we left Bon Accord Church in Aberdeen as I was called to Buccleuch in Edinburgh. It was a very emotional time. A farewell meeting was arranged and, for someone who makes his living in a form of public speaking, I am not very good on those sorts of occasions. Thankfully this song came to me. Bon Accord is the motto of the City of Aberdeen and the chorus is based on the Aberdeen Toast: “Happy to meet. Sorry to part. Happy to meet again. Bon Accord!”
The Shepherd’s Song
I grew up on a hill sheep farm on the Strath of Kildonan where my father was a shepherd, and as a wee boy I would never go to sleep at night unless my father or mother would sing me a particular song. It was “The Ninety and Nine” which tells the story of the lost sheep and the Good Shepherd. In December 1989 my parents were due to celebrate their Golden Wedding, and I wanted to write a song for them. It became apparent early in the year that my father was seriously ill, and would probably not make it. I wrote this song, and I’m glad I was able to sing it for him before he died.