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Margaret Stewart and Allan MacDonald "Colla Mo Rn" CDTRAX 217

This is the second recording from the justly acclaimed partnership of traditional Gaelic singer Margaret Stewart and piper Allan MacDonald. The first, 'Fuair mi Pog' (also Greetrax), was not only a recording of deep musicality and austere beauty, it was also one of the most important Gaelic music recordings of recent years, making great music from a challenging and original approach to the tradition.

The follow-up CD does have a different character. It is less urgent than the former, perhaps in some ways it is more accessible, yet it is a recording of equal musical and emotional merit, proving again that this partnership is one of the most compelling and productive in traditional music in Scotland. One of the great plusses of this recording is the degree to which Allan MacDonald seems to be emerging from his shell as a singer. There are far too few recordings of men traditional singers and Allan's version of 'Hug oirean o ro gur toigh leam fhn thu', a popular song in the Gaelic world, is a good indication of what is being missed. Allan's voice is rich and resonant with bowed bass sonority and, hopefully, it will be more and more a feature of his work in the future.

Likewise, mention must be made of Allan's work as a composer - the final track on this CD is Allan's solo pipe performance of his own 'Na-h-Eilthirich'. This composition was used for the BBC series of the same title and the piece is a lament for those who suffered in the 'ethnic cleansing' of the 18th and 19th centuries. It shows that both in playing and composing Allan MacDonald's music has an awesome rugged finesse that is unsurpassed in contemporary piping.

The CD is highly recommended.

Peter Urpeth

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This album was reviewed in Issue 46 of The Living Tradition magazine.