Scottish singer-songwriter McNeill wonders in song how Muir found a better faith in the God of the Wilderness than the fire-and-brimstone deity his father tried to force upon him. Would Muir have saved the wilderness in Scotland as he did for California had he stayed in the country of his birth?
The music has been published in a book of McNeill's collected songs, which is available directly from him (Telephone in UK: 0191-3701 910). The song is part of a song-cycle about the Scots in America, which is presented as an audio-visual show lasting an hour and a half. McNeill has toured this show all over the United States.
The 6:20 minute song, "Muir and the Master Builder" can be found on the Compact Disc, The Back o' the North Wind (Tales of the Scots in America) (1991).
Other musicians who have covered this song include Ed Miller on his album The Edinburgh Rambler (Wellfield Records, 1997) and Dick Gaughan on his album Redwood Cathedral (Appleseed, 1998)
Brian McNeill writes on the album liner notes:
"One of Europe's most enduring myths tells of a land behind the North Wind, and in some versions of the story, that land is Scotland.
In terms of Scotland's people, the idea is certainly credible - over the centuries they seem to have been prey to a perpetual outward force, pushing them to all parts of the globe. If it's a wind, then it's one that has many names, some harsh - poverty and persecution - and some hopeful - betterment, restlessness, a desire to know what is over the next hill, the next ocean. But it's a complex wind as well, perplexing, for the further the Scots are blown from home, the more that home seems to exert its pull on them - and that's a paradox which has become part of our national character... anyone who wants to understand Scotland today must look at the lives of the Scots abroad, past and present.
And nowhere have these lives had more impact than across the Atlantic..."
"Brian McNeill is a supremely, some would say obsanely, talented man.
He's the sort of musician who makes other musicians gloomily reexamine their comparatively meagre talents and wonder how they ever had the bare-faced cheek to get up on the stage.
He is, to my certain knowledge, a fiddler and guitarist of the master-class category, a songwriter of crackling authenticity, a gifted and expressive author with two books to his credit, and a fine singer...
As a songwriter myself, it's Brian's songwriting talent that cuts closest to my heart. His songs of Scotland's heritage are so authentic, so evocative of the period of which he's writing that you'd swear he kept a week time-machine in his attic, and every so often he wheechs back to the past to pick up some period colour to brush into his songs. And yet, when he writes about contemporary issues, he effortlessly glides up through the centuries and writes songs that breathe of here and now. And all of them crafted with care, compassion, and commitment, often leavened with a dash of dry Falkirk wit...
For many years Brian McNeill has sweated blood in the engine-room of the admirable Battlefield Band. He has now moved to the bridge, donned the Captain's hat, and set his own course. We are all invited along for the ride. It should be quite a trip. Hold on to your hats."
- Eric Bogle
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Other John Muir Songs
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