“I am often asked, why is Scottish music so depressing?” quips Jim Malcolm “Have you ever been there?” I truly enjoyed the combination of Scottish folk and Celtic music and the singers’ self deprecating humor, last Friday Sept. 21 in the GCC theatre. It surprised me that the audience was mostly older members of the community. Very few students took advantage of the discounted ($3) tickets, except for a handful of theatre majors. Maybe it was because they could not understand the words. (Every parent will pick up on a bit of irony here.)
Despite the singer’s thick accent and my own unfamiliarity with the Scottish slang you can feel the meaning of the music. Jim tells a story about how he is often asked to sing “Like a red, red rose” at weddings. He jokes that no one listens to the words, because it is a song about parting. His songs were often political and satirical. One album is titled “Disaster for Scotland” He sings a song about Napoleon that ends in a bloody mess, but instructs the listeners to “enjoy themselves.” In another song he parody of the Johnny Cash song, “16 Tons.” Jim Malcolm’s version is about zoo animals with a chorus of “16 buns is far too much dough”
Mr. Malcolm states “humor comes from misfortune,” And it becomes clear he must have had a lot of inspiration in his homeland. We are even schooled in a history lesson as he tells us half the signers of the declaration of independence were Scottish, “a bunch of troublemakers”. He tells of a time that he dressed like Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns in tight pants and a frilly white shirt. “I was a babe magnet, well, a woman of a certain age magnet.” I found Jim Malcolm’s voice to be soothing and enthralling. One of his songs was even about a visit to WNY in the fall.
It’s funny, how I had not appreciated the beauty in my own back yard until Jim Malcolm traveled over 3000 miles to sing about it. It is amazing how much you can learn about yourself from people who seem very different from you. I encourage all of you be open to new people and experiences. Try something you have never done before. Search for samples of Jim Malcom’s music online, attend the next concert at GCC, or write your own parody of a Johnny Cash song. Turn your misfortune into laughter. Love your home land enough to make fun of it. Know where you are from, so you can see where you are going. You can travel all around the world searching for something, and return home to find it.