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PAUL MOUNSEY - "Nahootoo" - Iona Records IRCD050

This could easily be described as the difficult second album riding the wave of 1994's critically acclaimed "Nahoo". "Too" is a work of much greater backbone and depth. It is still likely to divide opinion every bit as much as its predecessor, following well trodden themes of the clearances, homecoming and distant native populations, set to a very modern upbeat soundscape; but it has the feeling of being a much more complete album.

It is the music, not the vocal element which holds the key to the album's vibrant feel, which again has both feet firmly set in the nineties, and covers a cross-section of dance/ethnic themes alongside traditional elements, using samples and digital equipment as its base. I'm pleased to report that the samples are used to great effect, and aren't tacky as is so often the case these days. "Nahootoo" is loosely divided into two segments. The first, and for this listener the strongest, deals with the theme of clearances in general, wherever they may be, and whoever they may affect. It kicks off with the bracing "Remembrance" with Gaelic text ringing out through the strident arrangement. Other highlights here are "Wherever you may Go" surely a possible single (come on Iona!) with its radio friendly and beautifully crafted hookline, and "North" an epic instrumental which builds to a truly dramatic climax.

The second section really gives a nod back to "Nahoo", following its style closely. This suite centres on a sample taken from the singing of Flora McNeill, and is its self split into two arrangements. "A Mhairead Og", firstly reflects the roman and lilting theme on the vocal, however, the second part breaks with any tradition and sets the sample to a heavy dancefloor style percussion arrangement. According to Paul Mounsey "Flora hates this track!"

In Paul Mounsey, Iona Records have stumbled upon an artiste with undoubted talent and vision, with previous collaboration such as Michael Nyman at the head of a list which reads like a 20th Century who's who. He will, however, need to be nurtured with time and effort given to radio/media promotion. Lastly, lovers of Martyn Bennett and Shooglenifty will find much to applaud on "Nahootoo", but at the very least you should allow yourself a listen to this striking album.

Keith Witham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 24 of The Living Tradition magazine.