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HAMISH MacGREGOR 'Scottish Love Songs' Tartan Tapes CDTT1003

Great to see a new one from Hamish after all this time - let's see, it must be coming up to ... okay, end of spoof. Hamish MacGregor is the alter ego of concertina wiz Simon Thoumire and this is an odd bird indeed.

Its custard yellow cover with a bright tartan heart makes it seem bred to leap out at tourists browsing the racks in woollen mills and gift shops throughout Scotland this summer but are they in for a shock!

The album features such class acts as Rod Paterson, Elspeth Cowie and Sheena Wellington plus the odd surprise, whether in the backing department or in the featured vocalist, but more of that later.

While the choice of songs might seem safe, for example Alan Reid with The Bleacher Lassie, Rod Paterson with I Loved a Lass, Sheena Wellington with My Love is Like a Red Red Rose, the treatment is - for want of a better word - quirky.

Most of the time it works, especially Phil Bancroft's sax backing to Corrina Hewat's smoky Ae Fond Kiss, but the bodhran on Sheena's Partans in His Creel draws the listener's attention away from the voice.

There are two non-trad songs in the collection: a fine version of Michael Marra's Just Like Another Rolling Stone from Rod Paterson and an ear-opening Amang the Stepping Stanes by a certain Tam White, who looks to have a bright future in the music biz.

Among the backing musicians Eilidh Shaw adds some sympathetic fiddle and Mr MacGregor himself concertinas, whistles, percusses and pipes.

It's a brave attempt to put quality music onto the playlists of people who'd otherwise miss it and should be applauded. Now let's see - that's a rainmate, some treacle toffee and one of these tartan records, please.

Alan McIntosh Brown

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This album was reviewed in Issue 28 of The Living Tradition magazine.