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VARIOUS ARTISTS "The Complete Songs Of Robert Burns Vol 9"
Linn Records CKD 156

Here we have the latest of Fred Freeman's mighty project to record Burns' songs in their entirety. Every volume up until now has been an absolute gem, drawing on some of the finest talent in the traditional scene, and winning huge critical acclaim. So we have eight hard acts to follow, but have no fear - this volume easily holds its own in comparison to its forebears.

At a stonking 77 minutes, there is a wealth of material crammed into this release, with 21 tracks, some of these with more than one song on them, too. Singers on this outing are Mairi Campbell, Kirsten Easdale, Ross Kennedy, Niall Kenny, Karine Polwart and Jim Reid, more than adequately backed by another twelve musicians. No question about quantity or quality, then. The songs themselves range from the better-known such as Corn Rigs Are Bonie to the licentious Ye Jovial Boys and the poignant O Thou Pale Orb, so surely something for everyone.

The overall effect of this collection is to again remind the listener of the richness, diversity and depth of passions which Rabbie's material contains, which transcends the years. There are plenty other outlets for effusions about the Bard, however, so let's just remind ourselves that here we have, by any measurement, as fine a collection of songs sung in appropriately traditional style, yet with a contemporary feel, as anyone could hope to encounter.

Perhaps one of the great plus points of this collection in general is that it shows that these songs need not be treated like artefacts in a dusty musical museum, to be sung in the stilted and stylised White Heather Club way that would surely have been as much of an anathema then as now. Here we can appreciate the real beauty and power of songs of the people written or collected by one who understood.

Finally, it was poignantly satisfying to note that the CD is dedicated to the memory of Davy Steele, who put so much into the project, with the memoriam we keep the music going. A fitting tribute indeed.

Gordon Potter

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