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Alison McMorland & Geordie McIntyre - "Rowan in the Rock" - LTCD3002

One of the highlights of the year 2000 was the renaissance of Alison McMorland - she'd never really gone away but had maintained a lower profile, which was set aside last year with the issue of her "Cloudberry Day" album. This gave early indication of the emergent songwriting talents of husband Geordie, and those are more clearly illustrated here, and complemented by his own singing on this new work.

The CD exemplifies all that is good about the folksong revival, and the couples' obvious respect for the tradition enable them to approach it creatively. This is heard throughout, whether in their interpretation of traditional songs, or others from the pens of great writers like Violet Jacob and MacColl, whilst adding seamlessly to the canon by the inclusion of Geordies own newer ballads. Ask a stranger to the songs to identify what is traditional and what is contemporary(apart from those with obvious references),and he/she couldn't. Living tradition indeed.

Whilst Alison's' previous album was good, this is markedly better, and the warmth of their "live" performance that proved more elusive last time around is captured better here. Daughter Kirsty, herself no mean singer adds to the satisfying sense of "rightness" that pervades the record.

Highlights? -many! For me the strong bold ballad style of Geordie serves the robust outdoor themes of a number of the songs excellently, but his versatility allows him to also address more tenderly the poignant. This is much in evidence on McColl's "The Joy of Living", which they take as a joint effort. The title track takes the ability of the rowan tree to root and survive in the hardest of situations, and in the final verse this is likened to the journey through life together. In the hands of a clumsy or schmaltzy singer this could be turned into a stomach churner, but their sincerity and just the right amount of restraint makes it shine forth.

When I referred to the album as an exemplar, this also applied to the accompaniments. Never flash, always in the service of the song, they include apart from banjo and guitar from the couple, Norman Chalmers on concertina, moothie, bodhran, whistle and Jews Harp whilst Derek Hoy appears on fiddles and Patsy Seddon on clarsach. Whilst adding light and shade to the album, it is such a welcome antidote to the tendency to over accompany; I'm not suggesting that out there lurks a world of bombastic accompanists, but there is an all too prevalent tendency for people to over accompany songs and turn them into somewhat overblown productions that they were never intended to be. Among its other strengths let this album stand as an example of how it can and should be done.

A gem on many fronts.

Hector Christie

To Hear Some Sample Tracks Click Here (Needs Real Player)

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