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STAIRHEID GOSSIP "Stirrin' it up" Greentrax CDTRAX230

I have already enjoyed the singing of this lively Edinburgh women's group and it is good to hear them on CD at last. The recording captures their real sound and character, which does not always happen with artistes who are less committed to the songs. Accompaniment is kept to a minimum, with the result that, when it is used, it is effective.

The songs are mosty Scottish, both old and new, with a sprinkling from elsewhere. Outstanding tracks are The Baron o Brackley, in spite of a couple of boobs like "was a linnen playing" for "whistlin an playin" and "writhing" for "rivin", The Women o Dundee, delivered with verve and convicton, a poignant Aye Waukin O and Cotton Mill Girls with its defiant insouciance. Auchindoon expresses something of the darkness of the story but does not quite convey the savagery of the clan raid. The African harmonies are there in Bahlele Bonke, but otherwise it gets the ladies' choir treatment that does not compare with the wholehearted African way of singing. Derek Hoy's tune to the Rantin Dog is good but the singers kill the bawdiness with nice harmonies. Motherwell's High Germany is a favourite of mine and I have only one quibble about Eileen Penman's singing of it. I know her as a fine singer in her own right, so she does not need to copy the style of the singers from whom she learns songs. This is especially true when she copies a rendering that breaks up the long line of the song, that is one of its most expressive features.

There is much to please the ear on this album and that is largely due to the enjoyment the singers take in singing the songs. That is what it is all about, after all.

Sheila Douglas

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