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Lochshore CDLDL 1218

Having famous friends guesting on your album can sometimes shift the spotlight to the periphery of the main event, and when the friends are two thirds of Capercaillie you've certainly got to be careful. But Donald Shaw (producer and 'caillie contact) has done the job - it's very much Ross and Archie's album and the friends remain largely in the (superb) background.

The tunes are fiddle-led (McAllister) with the rapid interplay of fiddle and guitar/bouzouki (Kennedy) occasionally reminiscent of Whippersnapper, if resolutely Scottish. Their sound is uncluttered yet filled by almost imperceptible keyboard washes, while Fred Morrison's small pipes give an extra kick in the jig and reel sets (including "Lads of Laois" which apparently started life as "Lads of Leith"- a case of Irish poachery perhaps!). The backing is sensitive throughout, particularly the segue to piano/low whistle as Karen Matheson's Gaelic vocals follow on from Ross' English in "Farewell to Fiunary". Marc Duff and Charlie McKerron also pop up.

A comparison could be made with Dick Gaughan. Ross's vocals are uncannily similar in tone and emotional impact if less forceful, although Ewan McColl's "North Sea Shoals" is driven hard. And the material covers Scottish tunes, workers' politics ("The Can O' Tea", a Clydeside shipyard strike over a tea break!), the beauty of nature ("The Ingleside") and a Burns love poem ("Bonnie Jean"). Yet this is no pale imitation. They are a formidable partnership who have produced an exceptionally complete and balanced album which deserves a very wide hearing.

Kevin Cooper

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This album was reviewed in Issue 12 of The Living Tradition magazine.