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CALLUNA "Dance Tunes, Airs & Songs From Scotland" Mill Records MRCD017

"Calluna is an exciting collaboration involving Charlotte Petersen, Anna Wendy Stevenson, Rebecca Knorr and Wendy Weatherby. The music is fresh and spirited and combines instruments long established in the Scottish music tradition."

As I prepared to review this CD, I came across the Mill Records advertisement (which includes the sentences above) in LT 40. Certainly, "Dance Tunes ." has a great deal in its favour. You're struck initially by its packaging; the inlay is decorated with exquisite pencil drawings by Catriona Stevenson of the instruments used and the various typefaces have been carefully selected to create a particular impression. The notes are informative about the material, which is either traditional or written convincingly in a traditional style, sometimes by band members. It's impeccably produced and engineered, with all instruments in balance. In fact, I can't fault it in any way. And yet .

That title says it all. The lack of snappiness, the restrained good taste, the cautious precision of its description sum up the CD perfectly. After the third track, I was inwardly screaming for something like the ragged virtuosity of Eliza Carthy, for the women pictured on the inlay to cut loose just a little. The fine vocals of Wendy Weatherby on several tracks hint at a liveliness which just might underlie the prevailing gentility; I could have done with more of her. As it is, it's technically competent, beautifully performed and, indeed, just about perfect. But "exciting"? I think not.

Dave Tuxford

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This album was reviewed in Issue 41 of The Living Tradition magazine.