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VARIOUS ARTISTS "20th Anniversary Collection" Green Linnet GLCD106

Green Linnet's output over the past two decades has been prodigious, and this collection captures both the range and volume of the Green Linnet catalogue. The two CDs here provide nearly two and a half hours of music in 38 tracks. Not everyone will agree about the choice of material, but you can't quibble with the quantity or the quality.

Like many things Green Linnet have done, this compilation seems to be largely the vision of founder Wendy Newton. From the anecdotal sleeve notes to the final choice of tracks, Wendy's taste is evident. If the intention was to provide a representative sample of Green Linnet recordings, then the collection is a success. It is predominantly Irish or Irish-American, with forays into other Celtic musics; it is firmly traditional rather than folky; it concentrates on instrumental music, with only one track in four including vocals; and it spans three generations of musicians.

One very interesting, and perhaps unforeseen, characteristic is that fully one third of the tracks have a significant Scottish content: we don't generally think of Green Linnet as a Scottish music label, but maybe that will change.

The two CDs manage to cover most of Green Linnet's artists, which is no mean feat with a catalogue of over 200 albums. There are some notable omissions, though. Older musicians such as Paddy Tunney, Tommy Reck, Martin Mulvihill, Charlie Coen, Johnny McGreevy and Joe Shannon are sadly missing, as is the relatively young Gerald Trimble despite three Green Linnet albums. Less surprising, but still notable, is the absence of the Canadian contingent: Jerry Holland and La Bottine Souriante are not included, nor are Orealis and Rare Air.

That said, there is an amazing amount of great music here. Some of my favourites are the Gray Bob set from the Tannies' "Capernaum" album, the upbeat reels "Gort to Texas to Honolulu" from the irrepressible Reeltime, Dick Gaughan's rendition of "A Song for Ireland", the piping of Jerry O'Sullivan on the big reel "Colonel Fraser", and a very welcome track from Galicia's Milladoiro. I could mention the excellent medley from Altan's "Island Angel" CD, the unsurpassed version of "Music for a Found Harmonium" from the third Patrick Street recording, the pair of exquisite reels from Martin Hayes which opens CD2 or the magnum opus from The Bothy Band which finishes it, but I won't. I'll just say that I can't think of better value for money than this album, and I for one think the choice of tracks is admirable, especially the Scottish influence!

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 18 of The Living Tradition magazine.