SYLVIA BARNES - The Colour Of Amber
SYLVIA BARNES - The Colour Of Amber
Greentrax CDTRAX314

A long overdue CD from one of the finest singers Scotland has produced over the last 30 years. This is not opinion but fact! I feel privileged to hear The Colour of Amber before many of the readers of this magazine, and to be allowed to review it.

Sylvia Barnes first came to my - and others’ - attention as part of the significant, if short lived, Kentigern, followed by Scotch Measure and, at some stage -Battlefield Band. The quality of her voice was officially recognised in 2006 when she won Scottish Singer of the Year, facing some stiff competition.

I think I am correct in saying this is her first solo album, and, for my part I wasn’t ready for the performance she gives. It starts with a bit of a nonsense song from the singing of Lizzie Higgins, ok in its own way, but giving no hint of what is to follow. The Turn Of the Road is one of Les Barker’s serious songs, being a good example of the uncomplicated backing provided by the Wrigley Sisters, Frank McLaughlin’s small pipes and the excellent guitar of Sandy Stanage.  But for me the real show stoppers are the amazing ballads - and it was these I was not ready for. I like to listen to a CD as I write a review but twice I was stopped in my tracks!  Firstly it was during Fair Annie from the singing of Peter Bellamy - to say she lives it is an understatement!  I think I can say that I have never heard a more moving version of Prince Heathen – quite amazing, given how many have sung this and how it suffers in the wrong hands. It is worth buying The Colour of Amber just for these two tracks alone, but I am sure you will find much more to enjoy.

A word of praise for the production as Sandy Stanage has given the whole CD a clarity, as to Sylvia, it is the lyrics that are vital. If I have any criticism it is that, for me, the painting on the cover doesn’t feel right - but who am I to complain when there are so many gems here. In my opinion Sylvia Barnes should follow up her 2006 with a nomination for Scottish Album of the Year, with an album of ballads to follow.  Thanks for a really good listen.

Dave Beeby
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This album was reviewed in Issue 76 of The Living Tradition magazine.