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CAPERCAILLIE "Glenfinnan (Songs of the '45)" Survival Records CAP6

I'm not a big fan of Capercaillie's contemporary songs, but this CD grabbed me. Recorded in 1995 for TV, it contains seven traditional songs and two Capercaillie compositions in the traditional idiom performed by the old Capercaillie line-up plus Fred Morrison. And it's very good.

The songs were nearly all written around 1745 or earlier, by some of the finest poets in the Gaelic language. The arrangements are modern but tasteful, and the musicianship is up to Capercaillie's usual high standard. Karen Matheson's singing is at its best with this traditional material, and she takes us from the defiant "Oran do Loch Iall" through the exuberant "Oran Eile don Phrionnsa" to the heartbroken "Mo Run Geal Og" which laments the fallen of Culloden.

This recording holds the attention throughout its rather short 36 minutes. Faster and slower songs alternate, and the arrangements are varied without being distracting. There's also a nice instrumental track in the middle, "Alasdair's Tune" composed by fiddler Charlie McKerron with a haunting melody and lively backing. The final track is a Lewis psalm reworked using digital wizardry to give a quite disturbing sound which is both effective and appropriate.

The sleeve notes are scanty and confused, but otherwise this CD is an excellent piece of work. I hope Capercaillie will follow it up with other Scottish historical recordings: maybe "Glencoe - Songs of Scottish Betrayal", or "Glenhoddle - Songs of Scottish Football".

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 34 of The Living Tradition magazine.