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VARIOUS ARTISTS "The Complete Songs of Robert Burns Vol. 4"
Linn Records CKD083

Number four in a series of twelve, and while you might expect at best a repeat of what has gone before, or maybe even a trough in the whole proceeding, in fact you get the best album to date. This album works perfectly as an entity. There is no sense that this is a concept, each performer at home with their material. Each performance feels like an item from the singer's repertoire, never a sense of anything other than personal compulsion in the choice of song.

This album sees Ian Bruce, Lesley Hale, Wendy Wetherby and Mick West returning from volume 3, and introduces Corrina Hewat, Jamie McMenemy, James Malcolm and Davy Steele, to bring the roster of singers up to twenty or so on the four volumes so far released.

To detail the instrumentalists involved would turn this review into a list, suffice to say the cream of the scene is present, and they provide perfect settings for the songs.

As with the earlier volumes, we have a mixture of familiar and obscure songs from Burns' pen.

My personal highlights include Wendy Wetherby's "White Cockade," it is great to hear her deservedly in centre stage for a change, instead of her usual supporting role, Jim Malcolm's "Shepherd's Wife", (just Jim's voice and guitar), Jim sings as if Burns wrote with him in mind, Mick West's "Tibbie Fowler o' the Glen" which has already entered into his repertoire and Corrina Hewat's atmospheric "Thou Gloomy December."

Davy Steele even breathes new life into "My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose" proving me wrong in thinking I never wanted to hear it again, while Ian Bruce continues to enhance his new found reputation as an interpreter of tradition.

Among the many positive aspects of this collection, is the presence of great singers whom I haven't heard for a while. The previous volume gave us back Leslie Hale, and this volume sees the return to the Scottish scene of Jamie McMenemy, whom many will remember fondly from his days with the Battlefield Band.

I believe that history will speak of the Linn Recordings in the same breath as the Kilmarnock Edition, so don't buy this CD, subscribe to the set.

John McCreadie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 27 of The Living Tradition magazine.