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BARRA MacNEILS "Racket In The Attic" Greentrax CDTRAX 225

The Barra MacNeils are a well-established Celtic band from Cape Breton who have been frequent visitors to the UK. Readers of a certain age will remember them as part of the New Wave which swept through Scottish dance music in the second half of the 1980s, delivering a well-aimed and well-deserved hoof up the kilt to an ever so slightly complacent scene. Fifteen years on, as young and even younger Nova Scotian outfits take advantage of more accessible recording opportunities and deluge the market, the inevitable backlash is taking place. So whither now the Barra MacNeils? The short answer is: still up there at the head of the clan.

Racket in the Attic proves that Seumas, Kyle, Stewart and Lucy MacNeil, plus bassist Jamie Gatti, can turn out the obligatory high energy jigs and reels as well as ever, but possess also the other attributes which keep bands like them at the top of their profession. And if you think Scottish strathspeys are dull, listen to their treatment of Scott Skinner's Tullochgorum on the album's final track. The songs are by a fine mixture of traditional and contemporary writers, with the latter including Tommy Sands, Andy M Stewart and - the highlight for this reviewer - a very sensitive version by Lucy of Tom Paxton's Everytime.

Their musical ability is flawless and there's a fine choice of material. The Barra MacNeils will be touring over here soon and if you'd like to hear Cape Breton music at its best, buy this, go see them, and enjoy some unparalleled sibling revelry.

Alan McIntosh Brown

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This album was reviewed in Issue 48 of The Living Tradition magazine.