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VARIOUS ARTISTS "A Clear Days Dawnin'" Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX176

"A thousand years of Scotland's music to welcome the New Parliament" is the subtitle and a nice idea which could set people arguing about what they'd have included/excluded instead.

A superb opener "Albranaich" by Jack Evans made me wonder if he'd been steeping himself in Paul Mounsey land - it's wild, spooky and majestic by turn and pins you to the wall. I wouldn't listen to this on Rannoch Moor on a dark night - in its desire to summon up the "dark and steamy shamanistic atmosphere" of the 6th century it certainly succeeds.

There are ten items steadily progressing through Scotland's history ... examples "Clerk Saunders" representing a window in song onto the big brooding ballads of medieval song whilst "A Man's a Man" represents the democratic music of the 18th century. Rod Paterson fronts both - the former much more successful than the "chunk a lunk" arrangement of the latter.

The full diversity of Scotland's music ranging from the resurgence of Gaelic through the small tribute to the Scotland Dance Bands "Bluebell Polka/Jean's Reel" a stirring "Freedom Come All Ye" up to the final "The Gathering Note" Andy Fenwick's Ferret" (Don't ask; I've no idea about the verminous critter either).

Here on the final track composer Jack Evans goes totally doolally with all sorts of electronic jiggery pokery thrown into a mix which remains thrillingly dominated by explosive pipes. (Doolally is a technical term employed within the realms of psychiatry to indicate a clinical condition where synth loops, sampled beats and all that kind of provocation that makes the neighbors move is being loudly put together whilst the police and doctors are breaking down the door with handfuls of detention forms).

Definitely one for a desert island. Performers include the aforementioned Jack and Rod, Sandy Brechin, Mairi Campbell, Tony McManus, Catherin-Ann MacPhee and lots more of that calibre. Deserves to be performed live as a complete work. Enterprising organisers out there, d'you hear?

Hector Chrstie

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