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ROCK, SALT & NAILS "More and More" Iona Records IRCD 030

One of the strengths of the Scottish Folk scene is the degree of diversity within it. Bands such as Runrig, Wolfstone, Capercaillie, and Old Blind Dogs are all identified with their own particular sound. To this list we can now add "Rock, Salt and Nails". The young band from Shetland have forged their own sound and are carving out a niche in the world folk market.

Twin fiddles, acoustic and electric bass guitars, keyboards and drums is an unusual lineup for a band and when combined with the distinctive voice of Paul Johnson a sound emerges which, although undeniably Scottish, screams Rock, Salt and Nails are in town!

"More and More" is Rock, Salt & Nails second CD and builds on the success of their first CD "Waves", which was well received by critics and fans alike. All the usual ingredients of a "second album" are in evidence. The band are tighter musically, the sound is less "raw" and the songs are cleverer. All in all this should be a disaster, but it ain't. Rock, Salt and Nails show signs of maturing into a class act.

The man who must take a lot of the credit for this is vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Paul Johnson. Five of the seven songs are Paul's, with topics ranging from social class, and growing up, through mental illness, and materialism. Aye there is angst aplenty! Don't let that put you of as there are some very sweet lines, and there is no chance of missing the message in the song. "Someday" which is dedicated to "all those people we've met living in mental and psychiatric homes" captures the pain of mental illness perfectly. A heavy topic is salvaged from morbidity by clever lyrics a jaunty beat and a gentle banjo refrain.

When Rock, Salt and Nails let loose on the instrumental sets they are as fiesty as the North wind in their native Shetland. The twin fiddles of Jenny Gardener and Magnus Johnson keep the melody going while all hell breaks loose around them. Paul Johnson proves his guitar playing is a match for his other talents , with some nifty picking. John Clark's walking bass and Russll Gair hypnotic percussion bind the whole sound together into a foot stomping affair. They are no "one speed" band however, as the air "Lucy Bain", composed by Jenny illustrates. Its delicacy sits in stark contrast to the wilder sets and provides a focal point for the album. Watch this tune be picked up by the rest of the folk world.

Rock, Salt and Nails may currently be the darlings of student bedsits throughout Scotland but it won't be long before the band reach a wider audience who will love them just as much. If you like you Scottish music steeped in the blood and gore of the Jacobite era then this isn't the CD for you. If, however, you can appreciate a young and talented band forging a new direction for themselves while acknowledging the tradition they are steeped in, you should give this band a listen. It would also allow you to say "I was into Rock Salt and Nails before they were famous".

Chris MacKenzie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 12 of The Living Tradition magazine.