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ABBY NEWTON - "Crossing to Scotland" - Culburnie CUL110D

This album may well be the best cello album in the folk idiom to be released in 1997. Having said that, there are not a lot of folk albums using cello as the lead instrument. I'll hold my hands up here and now and admit that in the past I've been towards the front of the queue to criticise 'chamber folk' - but it would be unfair to slot this offering feet first into that pigeon hole. It certainly isn't twee or tweedy. The airs work great - very atmospheric. The reels don't seem to hold together quite as well (but this isn't exactly a dance band here). However, the production is as tight as it gets (and that's pretty tight when Alasdair Fraser is co-producer). I wouldn't expect to see this lady playing a pub gig - or even my local folk club (even if a folk club could afford her), but that's scarcely the point. This is precision engineering (mostly) but sadly bereft of atmosphere also on some tracks (due probably in part to the clinical recording process).

The harp and Alasdair Fraser's fiddle on "O'Carolan's Draught" are superb - spoiled for me by the cello intro where she seems to enforce a classical metre to a jaunty Irish harp tune. I'd certainly like to see this collection of musicians together.

Grem Devlin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 25 of The Living Tradition magazine.
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