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CMC "Snap and Roll" Own Label SNAP 001

An own-label debut CD as polished as this is rare indeed. 'Snap and Roll' is a beautifully produced recording with a tight, crisp sound and plenty of excellent tunes. But then it's not really a debut CD, is it? Fiddlers Clare McLaughlin and Marianne Campbell, the two basic elements of CMC, will be known to you from the group Deaf Shepherd. Optional extras on this CD include the equally familiar Tony McManus (guitar) and James Mackintosh (drums), as well as the young and dynamic Gavin Rolston and Russell Hunter on guitar and piano. A particularly nice touch is the appearance of ace Galician piper Xose Manuel Budino on three tracks. In fact, there's only one fiddles-only track!

The overall impression is of a slick, professional outfit playing tunes which they are very comfortable with. Individual tracks range from the powerful raw fiddling of the North-East Scottish traditions to the lift and swing of the contemporary Edinburgh style, with touches of Irish and other European music. The tune changes are particularly nice, sometimes deceptively smooth and sometimes hitting you hard between the ears, but always spot on. The twin fiddles work perfectly, very inventive and never too stringy. Clare and Marianne handle the sweet and the savage faces of the fiddle with equal verve.

So what's wrong with it? Well, track 8 is a bit muddy and 44 minutes is a bit short but, apart from that, nothing. Every track is a joy, fresh and vibrant. Even the cover is good. Highlights: the Galician set featuring Mr Budino and some wonderful tunes reminiscent of the fiddle duo Curlew (remember them?); an exquisite arrangement of a Billy Jackson air from the last early Ossian album, with Mr Budino again; and the final pair of modern Irish tunes given the Edinburgh good-time treatment. Honourable mentions go to the "Macleod of Mull" set, the two opening foot-stompers, and the one unadorned fiddle track. It's all excellent, though: buy it. Buy several and give them away, you can't go wrong.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 39 of The Living Tradition magazine.