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IAIN MacDONALD & IAIN MacFARLANE - First Harves
Roshven Records RRCD001

If you're serious about Scottish traditional music, you have to hear this CD. The fiddle, pipes and flute duets are magical, the solos are awesome, and the whole thing is simply world class. The two Iains have impressive CVs in Scottish music, and there are echoes of their previous lives on many of these tracks: hints of Battlefield on tracks 1 and 4, Boys of the Lough on tracks 5 and 11, but no hangovers from Iain MacD's brief sojourn with Wolfstone. The winning formula behind this recording is extremely simple. Iain MacF sticks to fiddle, and Iain MacD divides his time between highland pipes and wooden flute. There's muted backing from other instruments on most tracks, and there are two songs from the rich dark voice of Kathleen MacInnes, but aside from a little double tracking there's very little technical mucking about. The result is a pure sound with the main protagonists to the fore. Even the two Iains' singing doesn't muddy the mix too much.

As well as the undoubted brilliance of MacD and MacF, it's the rich variety of music here which keeps the listener rapt. Drawing on the best of three hundred years of Scottish music, we are treated to unsurpassed versions of The Clumsy Lover, The Pitnacree Ferryman, The Road To Skye and many other classic tunes. Add to these the modern compositions of Blair Douglas, Allan MacDonald, Iain MacD himself, and a handful from Jerry Holland, and the musical cake is well iced. The Iains even throw a few Irish cherries on top: a set of those irrepressible Kerry polkas, jigs of course, and a great reel in Cuz Teahan's.

I haven't even mentioned my favourites yet: the set of heavyweight pipe tunes ending with The Rejected Suitor, the pair of flashy hornpipes The Steamboat and Thomond Bridge, and the swaggering romp that is The Battle Of The Braes. Get your own copy, and tell me if I missed anything.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 51 of The Living Tradition magazine.