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CAPERCAILIE - Grace And Pride The Anthology 2004-1984 (2 CD set) Survival Records SURCD 030

"Not another compilation!" This one's a bit special though. It marks Capercaillie's 20th anniversary, and through 150+ minutes, it charts the band's pioneering, perhaps restless musical journey. It includes deleted tracks & rare remixes, and one previously unreleased set, The Snuff Wife Jigs. In a surprisingly effective touch, the music takes you backwards in time until you reach 1984 and The Little Cascade - this wonderful final tune evokes vivid images of the band's Argyllshire roots with its earthy, accordion-led simplicity and joie de vivre - and it lingers in the mind.

Capercaillie 2004 is polished, dynamic and assured - I cite the irresistible beauty of songs like Mile Marbhaisg as evidence. They've embraced world/jazz influences and yet have remained true to their Scottish heritage. Blessed from the start by Karen Matheson's beautiful voice, and a seductive array of Celtic instrumentation, this band makes fiendishly good music - with cracking tunes. The fledgling Capercaillie was an altogether 'rootsier' outfit, and there are many who still prefer that raw-at-the-edges sound. Interestingly, the band returned to those acoustic roots during this year's Highland & Islands tour.

It's good to reflect on the outstanding musical talents of two former band members in particular: Marc Duff (reeds/bodhran) and John Saich (bass). This music has stood the test of time - it's only when you hit 1986 and Crosswinds that it starts to feel dated, but material from 1991's Delirium sounds as if it was recorded yesterday. That turbo-charged combination of Donald Shaw (accordion/keys), Charlie McKerron (fiddle) and Manus Lunny (bouzouki) - they got together in 1989 - was monumentally enhanced back in the late 90's when Michael McGoldrick, with his improvisational genius on reeds & pipes, and bassist Ewen Vernal, bringing eons of flair from his jazz/rock background, joined the line up. They've helped take the band's music to another level altogether.

I honestly feel that a vocal track from Cascade should have been included, if only to demonstrate the metamorphosis of Matheson's vocal from those very early, Mod-style recordings, to that sublimely poised, eminently listenable voice of today. There will be few readers who haven't listened to Capercaillie's distinctive, dynamic, beautiful music. For those who haven't, this recording comes highly recommended.

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 59 of The Living Tradition magazine.