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CAPERCAILLIE "Choice Language" Vertical VRTCD006

When a band has been playing together for nigh on twenty years, it becomes evident in solid, beautifully integrated performances on every track. Once again Capercaillie branch out from their strong traditional roots, yet there's something eerily familiar about this recording. Not just because I'd seen them perform recently. It's their use of waulking songs and mouth music.

Karen Matheson sings wonderful old melodies that are embroidered with synths, a rhythm section flute, pipes and fiddle, making them at once familiar and new. 'Choice Language' refers not to rude words, but the fact that Capercaillie regularly chooses to sing in the Gaelic tongue. It's also the title of a funky instrumental tune composed by guitar and bouzouki player, Manus Lunny. There are a couple of introspective songs in English composed by keyboard player Donald Shaw. His Little Do They Know is a reflection on the loss of the politician John Smith. The tune that follows may be familiar to followers of the BBC series 'Gruth is Uachdar' (Crowdie and Cream). One of the Gaelic tracks, Port Na Caillich has a world beat feel to it, thanks in part to drummer Che Beresford, and the blistering flute playing of Michael McGoldrick. If you didn't recognise the language, you might not guess it was a Scottish song. In sharp contrast is the stunning rendition of I Will Set My Ship in Order. Subtle, gentle, bittersweet, Karen's voice floats over the quiet accompaniment of guitar, flute, fiddle and pipes. They had to put this one at the end, to let the echoes roll around in your head for a while once it's over. Breathtaking.

Elaine Bradtke

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This album was reviewed in Issue 53 of The Living Tradition magazine.