THE CASSETTE doormat at the entrance to Alice Marra’s Dundee home is more than a touch of retro whimsy. Now more than ever, the humble C90 has played a crucial part in her musical life.

One of Alice’s most treasured possessions is a home recording of her singing at the age of about 18 months, accompanied on piano by her father Michael Marra. “I’m just singing nonsense of course, but it’s a wonderful thing to have. It’s called Annyanoo,” she says, laughing.

Fast forward 35 years or so to Alice’s first solo record, a collection of 12 Michael Marra songs called Chain Up The Swings. A painstaking song selection process has produced an album that lovingly reflects his eclecticism, ranging from the more familiar Mother Glasgow and Frida Kahlo’s Visit to the Taybridge Bar to songs that no-one will have heard previously.

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An archive (of sorts) of home demos on cassette has yielded new material including the album’s opening track Soldier Boy. “Even my mum hadn’t heard that,” says Alice. “It’s just Michael singing and playing piano. You can even hear the thud of the buttons on his 1980s’ ghetto blaster clearly. We’ve taken that and given it a full arrangement.”

There are further father/daughter recordings in her collection. One at the age of eight, as she sings Mary’s Prayer by Danny Wilson and later, when Michael realised his daughter could learn parts quickly, she sang on his home demos and subsequent recordings.

“When I was a young teenager I lost interest in what he was doing. That’s natural. No teenager should think their parents are cool, but as I got older I gravitated back.

“But I do remember playing Kylie Minogue loudly in my bedroom when I was about seven years old. He was horrified. But he did say ‘one day you’ll find Joni Mitchell and everything will be OK’ and he was right.”

Since we lost Michael Marra in October 2012, Alice has been heavily involved in a series of tribute concerts, where a wide range of musicians have performed his songs.

Many of these have benefited the Optimistic Sound charity. It was formed by the Marra family following Michael’s death in an attempt to fulfil his wish to see a Sistema Big Noise Orchestra in his home city of Dundee. That wish was fulfilled with the announcement of Big Noise Douglas last May.

“The first tribute concert took place at Celtic Connections in 2013 and the feeling was that it should have been preserved somehow. There was also a thought to do that with the Dundee Rep tribute show later that year but it didn’t materialise.

“It was only when Gordon Maclean at An Tobar on Mull said ‘you should do an album of your dad’s songs’ that it occurred to me. I didn’t really think of doing anything on my own.”

The link with An Tobar is strong, beginning with Michael recording the mini-albums Quintet and Silence and his last release Houseroom with The Hazey Janes (the band that includes Alice and her brother Matthew). More recently The Hazey Janes recorded there with Liz Lochhead and Steve Kettley for The Light Comes Back.

“Houseroom and the record with Liz were both Gordon’s ideas, so when he suggests something it’s worth listening.”

Alice went back into the songbook but also unearthed songs that had never been recorded. She also collaborated with those who were closest to the original recordings, in particular Michael’s brother and guitarist Chris Marra, pianist and arranger Derek Thomson, and producer Allan McGlone.

“Allan had just built a new studio so we began experimenting. There were some songs that I was sure I wanted to record, but through the suggestions of others I tried others. It wouldn’t have crossed my mind to do Mother Glasgow for example, but it worked so well.”

The emotional aspect for those making the album can’t be underestimated. The loss of a father, a brother, a close friend and the lasting attachment to the material that needs to be treated with care, but not reverence.

“Some songs stayed faithful to the recordings. Taking The Last Train Home for example is a 1980’s pop tune and that’s how it stays, but we have moved away from the originals elsewhere. I also found out that many of my favourite songs are those written for theatre shows like Witch’s Blood and They Fairly Mak Ye Work. A Wee Home From Home is my favourite collection of songs, and my brother Matthew’s. Just genius.”

As Chain Up The Swings is released, Michael’s entire back catalogue will be made available digitally for the first time, from 1980’s The Midas Touch through to Houseroom from 2012.

In addition, there will be two new releases. Dubiety is a collection of recordings from the early 1980s. Originally planned to form the basis of his second album for Polydor, it was thought at the time to be too confusing to release. The other is a live album called High Sobriety, a solo concert from 2000, recorded at the Bonar Hall in Dundee.

To coincide with all the releases, Alice will perform at St Andrew’s in the Square. The sold-out show will see her fronting a 10-piece band – the Gaels Blue Orchestra for 2017 combining original members of her father’s live band with the next generation of musical talent from the city and beyond. “Seeing so many young musicians performing the songs and taking them forward is, for me, the most satisfying thing,” she adds.

There are no burning ambitions to move into theatre or follow Michael’s path into songwriting, however.

“I do some spoken word work, which I really enjoy, but most of my time is spent as a choir mistress now. As much as I enjoy being in a band, working with voices from 11 years old to over 80 has been a revelation – choosing repertoire, arranging songs, and working with harmony has been so satisfying.”

The question of how the album will be received obviously has an additional emotional layer but Alice is relaxed, saying, “I’m happy with it. There were so many different records we could have made but we made this one and who knows? There might be more at some point.

“It’s my tribute to him. I think he would be pleased.”

Chain Up The Swings is released on CD and digitally today through Inner City Sound records as the entire Michael Marra back catalogue plus two new releases, Dubiety and High Sobriety, are also released digitally .

Alice Marra and the Gaels Blue Orchestra play as part of Celtic Connections at St Andrew’s in the Square, Glasgow tomorrow.