The Scotsman Sessions #226: Ainsley Hamill and Malcolm Lindsay

Welcome to the award-winning Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, Ainsley Hamill performs Not Just Ship Land, the title track from her recent album celebrating notable but unsung characters from the history of Govan, accompanied by Malcolm Lindsay

A sense of place and people suffuses Ainsley Hamill’s song for the Scotsman Sessions. Not Just Ship Land is the title track from her recent album celebrating notable but “unsung” characters from the history of Govan, the Glasgow community once inextricably linked with shipbuilding but with a strong people’s history of its own.

The last song she recorded for the album, which she made with the Czech Studio orchestra and arranger Malcolm Lindsay, Not Just Ship Land was inspired, she explains, by her crossing the “Squinty Bridge” that spans the Clyde between Partick and Govan and walking through what remains a distinct community in its own right. Other songs on the album concerned often extraordinary local characters such as Olympic swimmer Belle Moore or the doughty social reformer Mary Barbour.

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“I was thinking, OK, these songs tell the stories of individuals, but we need something that encapsulates the sentiment of what I was saying in them. Once you get there, meet the people and walk its streets, you realise there is much more to understand about Govan’s past and present. It’s not just ship land.”

Ainsley Hamill

She opens it with richly voiced, evocative yet elegiac lines: “Salt water and city fill my head / Darkness falls on the bridge…” Unable to cram the Czech Studio Orchestra into her room (social distancing would go out the window), she recruited arranger and composer Lindsay to help with the accompaniment.

Best known until now as a Gaelic singer, Hamill adopted a more contemporary singing style for her Govan project, attracting wide interest. She certainly hasn’t left the tradition behind, however, and is due to record a new folk album with the band Fourth Moon and will also be heard contributing – in Gaelic and English – to the new Big Light podcast network established by broadcaster Janice Forsyth and producer Fiona White.

For more on Ainsley Hamill, see www.ainsleyhamill.com

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