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SOLAN "Northern Shore" Veesik Records VKCD106

I'd just been looking through the entertainment's page of my local paper when I noticed this band were doing a couple of gigs locally. Unfortunately, I'd already got an engagement in London that day so was unable to see them in the flesh. I say unfortunately because I'm sure they will be pretty good live, if this offering is anything to go by.

Solan come from just about as far north as you can get - the Shetlands, although I have a sneaky feeling that at least one has connections a lot further south. Chris Henderson, fiddles, Frances Wilkins, concertinas, and Richard Chaff on guitar and vocals have come up with a promising debut album.

Most of the songs are recognisable and a good job is made of them - with the exception of Steve Knightly's "Tall Ships" which never lives up to the original and is pretty awful, I feel, but probably goes down a storm live. However the tunes are simply stunning, especially those featuring the excellent playing of Frances. Of these the wonderfully titled "Ef in France" is outstanding. This is set of hornpipes written by Richard, whilst new life is breathed into "New Rigged Ship", which seems to be in the repertoire of many from that area.

A look at their Internet page shows an extensive gig list including festivals during the summer so I am sure (sorry!!!) "Northern Shore" will sell well. Now that this is out of the way a bit more imagination in the choice of song - something the tunes have plenty of - will make their second really good. In the meantime Solan are well worth seeking out and have produced a most promising CD.

A word or two about the packaging and production: the cover is excellent and eye-catching whilst the sound quality is clear and arrangements are sympathetically done. There is a lesson here for many much more established artists.

Dave Beeby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 38 of The Living Tradition magazine.