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FRANK McLAUGHLIN & GILLIAN MacDONALD "Out of the Wood"
Claytara Records CLCD001

This is a fine album from a couple of people who know where they want to go with their music and don't let themselves be distracted.

From the opening bars of the first track - Sailor Boy - to the last strains of "MacCrimmon's Lament", Frank and Gillian (formerly known as The Vital Spark) deliver a set of songs and instrumentals showing both an intimate knowledge of the tradition and the ability to sail further along that famous carrying stream.

With backing musicians of the calibre of Ian Lowthian on accordion, Stewart Hardy on fiddle, Wendy Weatherby on 'cello and Old Blind Dogs' Davy Cattanach on percussion, there might have been the temptation to go off on flights of musical fancy, but all concerned have stuck to the task in hand and produced an album which can only lead to further recognition in the traditional music world.

Frank contributes guitars, small pipes and whistle and features several of his own tunes and while Gillian plays whistles and guitar also, it's her voice that's the main attraction of the album; in turn sweet, wistful and soulful as the mood of each song suggests.

There's a nice progression and tempo to the album with the instrumental tracks at the most appropriate points and the choice of songs is excellent, with outstanding versions of Johnny My Man, The Flooer o' Northumberland, Eppie Morrie and a multi-tracked MacCrimmon but, in truth, there isn't a duff track to be found.

It's refreshing to see such a well-produced and packaged album appearing on the scene as an 'own label' brand and if this is a sample of the effort and imagination Frank and Gillian intend putting into their musical career, rewarding times must be just around the corner.

Thoroughly recommended.

Alan McIntosh Brown

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This album was reviewed in Issue 29 of The Living Tradition magazine.