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ANDY M. STEWART "Donegal Rain" Green Linnet GLCD1183

Andy M's first album since 1994's "Man in the Moon" features an impressive collection of sessioneers including Gerry O'Beirne, (who also doubles as producer), John McCusker, Davy Paton and Kevin Wilkinson providing a tight backing to the eleven tracks on this outing, eight of which are traditional songs given contemporary arrangements along with a handful of self penned tracks.

"The Rambling Irishman", which opens the album, is given a catchy laid back country rock treatment with its generous sing along chorus confirming the feelgood factor. "Tibbie Fowler o' the Glen" also benefits from a lean piece of slinky white funk, but it's the solo songs such as "Queen Amangst the Heather", "Mary and the Heilan' Sodger" and the huge ballad "Banks of Sweet Dundee", accompanied by sympathetic guitar backing that come through strongest.

A vibrant version of "Gallant Murray", on the exploits of Lord George Murray during the '45, is a bold arrangement of a weel kent song, and fairly stirs the blood as it marches along. But the instrumental, "The White Rose", which accompanies it, disappointingly fails to deliver that extra element the song deserves.

Phil Cunningham makes a welcome appearance on the last two tracks "When You Took Your Love" and "Donegal Rain" and his gentle touch on accordion and piano adds that extra flavour to these love songs that the album has been missing throughout.

Gerry O'Beirne has produced a robust, but warm album that definitely benefits from repeated listening, but the band are too restrained and the dynamics are too well defined, which tends to dilute the emotional impact throughout. However, Andy M. once again delivers beautiful, well phrased, immaculate singing that provides subtle surprises in places, on a well chosen collection of songs that will not disappoint his many fans.

Iain McQueen

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