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THE OCCASIONALS - "Back in Step" - Greentrax CDTRAX107

The recent increase in popularity of Scottish dance music, especially of the non-Royal Scottish Country Dance Society kind, has led to a batch of releases of what might be termed Do It Yourself Ceilidh Dance Music.

One of the most successful of these was the Occasionals' "Footnotes" album and here we have the "Son of ..." The subtitle of this new release is "The Complete Scottish Ceilidh Dance Vol 2" and it follows on from where the band left off before the interval and the wee breath of fresh air and, of course, the raffle.

What you get for your money is a collection of 18 dances all of which can be enjoyed in the privacy of your own home (with understanding neighbours). It can be used as a training manual for the real thing along with a companion booklet called "Back in Step - The Dances" written and edited by Karin Ingram and Freeland Barbour or, if you prefer, you can be a wallflower and just listen to it.

The music is toe-tapping and the musicians as good as you'll find in any dance hall. The Occasionals are led by Freeland Barbour on accordion with Mairi Campbell cast as fiddler, Runrig's Malcolm Jones on guitar and dobro, Kevin MacLeod on his distinctive guitar-shaped banjo and the Wallochmor Ceilidh Band boiler-room of Neil MacMillan on piano and double bass and Gus Millar on drums.

Special guests on this album are the extremely well-known Bella McNab, viola, and Richard Caleyman, piano, plus the ever-popular Hawaiian Highlanders of King Taliki Malikeechi on dobro and Hector Houpipi on steel guitar - now would I lai to you?

The dances are familiar, however, with favourites such as the Gay Gordons, Military Two-Step, Dashing White Sergeant etc but the music won't be so familiar, well not yet. Many of the tunes are either trad arr Barbour or written by Freeland himself and, as always, the descriptions and history of the tunes is first rate.

This is a fine album whether you're a dancer or a listener or both. The new tunes begin to catch after a couple of listens, the playing is crisp, the recording is clear. What more could you want?

Alan Brown
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This album was reviewed in Issue 19 of The Living Tradition magazine.