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ROBIN LAING "Imaginary Lines" - Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX185

In his relatively short time on the folk music scene, Robin Laing has always refused to take the easy option. The popular success of the Isle of Eigg and the competition success of his Forth Bridge Song in 1990 could have set him up for years as a writer of crowd-pleasers. He's chosen, however, to sharpen his writing skills and this album - his fourth - is his most musically satisfying.

The title comes from a line of song - The Secret Song of Time - telling the story of John Harrison and his discovery of longitude, and the songwriter captures the mood beautifully:

"So he slowly learned his craft and trade
His mind as sharp as any blade
And a little magic box he made
To catch the soul of time."

Other songs cover subjects such as cryogenics (Born in the Wrong Time); the land (Heavy Horses); the Land (a Nation's Heart) and, naturally, there's some personal philosophy (Watershed; Closer to Heaven) and Cyclops, which is definitely one in the eye for those who thought that Anne Lister's song Icarus had cornered the market in symbolism.

Robin's voice is as immaculate as ever, as is his trademark Spanish guitar, and there's first-class musical support from David Scott on guitar/bass; Brian McAlpine on piano; Wendy Wetherby on cello; Jim Gash on drums and Tom McNiven on trumpet, with Ursula Ryan on harmony vocals (and a writing hand in two of the songs.)

This is a fine album to add to Robin's extensive catalogue of thoughtful and thought-provoking songs.

Alan McIntosh Brown

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This album was reviewed in Issue 36 of The Living Tradition magazine.