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Muir and the Master Builder

by Brian McNeill

In this powerful song, Scottish singer-songwriter McNeill wonders 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 6:20 minute song, "Muir and the Master Builder" can be found on McNeill's CD, The Back o' the North Wind (Tales of the Scots in America) (1991), which today is widely available for download in digital format from major online music retailers. The song is also 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 music has been published by McNeill in a self-published book of McNeill's collected songs.

Other musicians who have covered this song include:

  • Ed Miller on his album The Edinburgh Rambler (Wellfield Records, 1997)
  • Dick Gaughan on his album Redwood Cathedral (Appleseed, 1998)
  • Alasdair Fraser and the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers, on the album "San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers Live at the Freight." (2013). This version of the song is performed by a female vocalist.

Like many popular songs, "Muir and the Master Builder" is included on various YouTube videos by "regular" people covering the song, or recordings with the lyrics or photographs accompanying McNeill's singing.

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..."

About Brian McNeill

"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

For album and concert information:

Brian McNeill's Official Website

In U.K. :
Ian D Green
Greentrax Recordings
Cockenzie Business Centre
Edinburgh Road
East Lothian EH32 OHL
Tel: 01875-814 155
Fax: 01875-813 545

In U.S.A. :
Rounder Mail Order
1 Camp Street
Massachussetts 02140-1194
Fax: 617-868 8769
E-mail orders via:
Web: Rounder Records

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