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PAUL MACHLIS "The Bright Field" Culburnie CUL107CD

This could easily be my album of the year (and I mean '95). It features Paul Machlis on piano and keyboards; Alasdair Fraser on violin and viola; Barry Phillips on cello and Bill Coulter on guitar.

It's a set of eleven distinct and distinctive airs, eight of which were written by Machlis and is difficult to describe.

Let's start with a negative description: foot stompin' stuff it ain't, but if you like Billy Jackson's Wellpark Suite and Riverdance and the work of Shaun Davey then this might well be up your street.

It takes a few plays to get into but repays the time taken because the melodies and variations become familiar. In fact, some of them are based on existing Scots and Irish tunes or parts of tunes and one in particular - called simply "Shetland Air" - comes from a setting by Violet Tulloch on a recording by Tom Anderson and Aly Bain of a tune by the 18th century Unst fiddler Fredamann Stickle.

It's music to think to, and to think BIG. I play it in the car driving home by way of Loch Rannoch and Loch Tummel and if that combination of sight and sound doesn't produce the great Scots song/tune/play/novel of the next few years then it's time to give up. In a word - marvellous.

Alan Brown

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This album was reviewed in Issue 15 of The Living Tradition magazine.