16th August 2018
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No offence: it’s Campbell humour

Some weeks ago discussion in The Shetland Times newsroom centred on outspoken Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle.

Opinion varied to some degree, but found Boyle to be wholeheartedly offen­sive, and – more to the point, given his chosen profession – unfunny.

Whether you concur, of course, is up to you. But if you do, the latest CD offering from Colin Campbell – Colin Campbell’s Local Radio Volume 15 – may just be the antidote you are looking for.

Colin who? I hear you ask. Admittedly, he’s not exactly filling the Albert Hall. Campbell is a farmer who happens to have an accordion and a dry wit.

But in the rural Highlands, where I was raised, he is a local institution – his is a clever, observant humour about Scottish rural life which has kept audiences entertained for years.

And he does it, largely, without causing offence, although fire is held in reserve for bankers, the tax-man and . . . Free Church ministers . . ?

For years the bulk of his material has been local radio sketches, during which Campbell transforms himself into various odd-ball characters. He uses regional dialects from Aberdeenshire, Ross-shire, Caith­ness and the Western Isles for added bite, creating farcical and, loosely, topical stories.

Thirty live tracks are featured on the “failed crofter’s” latest offering, recorded in cosy and intimate venues – Mackay’s Hotel in Wick and Lovat Arms Hotel in Beauly.

So, from the off we’re “swingin’ an’ a’ jinglin’ on Radio Caithness”, presented by disc-jockey “Johnie Polson, bringin’ ye all that’s the very best in local radio entertainment” (imaging a thick Caithness accent here for true comedic effect).

Campbell, sorry, “Polson”, pres­ents Deserted Highland Discs – an interview with a local whose forebears were affected by the clearances.

The “interviewee” described the heart-rendering tale of how his descendents were forced to leave the croft in the mid-1800s, taking their sons along with them – Angus, Hamish, Ian, Torquill and . . . Abdulah.

Top Tips for Toffs provides whim­sical advice from a plummy char­acter with an absurd double-barrel­led name, Crispin Doubly-Smug, who is presumably still smarting after his divorce from his wife Jacaranda, the third daughter of the second duke of Rockall.

That one is full of helpful advice, like paying for a duck-house at the tax-payer’s expense, although the key issue centres on whether jodhpurs can cure cellulite.

Meanwhile The Bonnie Bonnie Banks . . . sees Campbell murder a classic, traditional song in the name of political irony.

Renewable energy is brought to the fore in The Orkney Wave Farmer, although Campbell’s range of regional accents breaches its limit, somewhat, on this one. Highlight for some, however, must be Radio Ballinabraxie, where a Western Isles man of the cloth – “Greetings, friends and fellow sinners” – presents, of all things, a cooking show.

The highlight is a special, Ecclesi­astical Ice-Cream Sundae (like a normal ice-cream Sundae, but more austere).

In what is clearly a reference to the recent offering of Sunday sailings to in the Western Isles, the listener is given carte blanche to eat it on a Sunday if they wish, “but please take the boat on the Monday”.

So, is Campbell’s 15th volume worth going for, then?

Well, it’s hardly a polished per­formance. If you’ve heard Camp­bell’s previous efforts, you’ll know what to expect.

But to the uninitiated, Campbell’s amateurish approach can be a shock to the system – and that’s without being offensive.

Ryan Taylor