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THE BARRA MacNEILS "Timespan" Iona Records IRCD043

The Canadians are coming! Well by the time you read this they'll probably have been. But will they be forgotten? Well certainly not on the evidence of what I've heard so far. My local radio station has played tracks from most of the crop of releases on the Iona label. It's good stuff and if you want more of an overview then read the article in TLT #19. I just get the feeling that "The grass is always greener on the other side" here. I find it strange that someone from Scotland is telling us that Canadian music is better than that from his own country, when in England the merits of the stuff from Scotland is always being extolled. Has he never heard of Shooglenifty or Tartan Amoebas?

But back to the Barra MacNeils.

They are good but it took me a couple of listens to appreciate that fact. "Timespan" is made up of a selection of tracks dragged from three albums released between 1986 and 1990, but I don't think they were readily available this side of the water. On first hearing I thought they were a bit too smooth for me, but a closer listen proved worthwhile. I can't tell you anything about the tracks as my promo copy inset is not complete - in fact its very poorly produced - I just hope the released version is better. You will be familiar with some of the tunes and songs, especially "Coaltown Road."

I really like "My heart's in the Highland" with the politically incorrect images. The arrangements of the tunes are sufficiently different to be interesting but it has to be said that the sound effects on "Standing by the Subway" seem dated and don't work.

If you managed to catch them at the Celtic Connections then you'll probably have bought this on the strength of the live performance. As I live too far away I've got to make do with this CD - though I wouldn't mind the full insert.

Dave Beeby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 21 of The Living Tradition magazine.