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Private Label  AWS001

I like this CD a lot. I'm probably biased, having lived in Edinburgh for ten years, and knowing several of the musical characters involved, but I do feel that this music captures some of the best aspects of Edinburgh's spirit across all types of music. Anna-Wendy is well placed to do this, spanning classical and traditional music as well as other genres: on My Edinburgh she combines the unmistakable Edinburgh mix of folk and fun jazz with some more serious sounds. She's also had the brilliant original idea of setting words to her nine compositions, and then repeating the whole set without words, so you can choose whether to start at track 1 or track 11. (Track 10 is kind of in between.)

Each of these nine new pieces describes people or places from an Edinburgh which is instantly recognisable - at least to me! Anna-Wendy could well have taken the album title from this wonderful phrase in her press release: "my musical life in pubs", a fitting headline for the CVs of several participants in this production. My Edinburgh leads with the exuberant Fred Thomson's Reel, with Luke Plumb on mandolin and Fraser Fifield on sax, recreating the mood of such great Edinburgh musicians as The Easy Club, Shooglenifty, Simon Thoumire, and even Salsa Celtica. The gentler ebb and flow of Newhaven Sunset suits Colin MacLennan's evocative words, the sun sinking into the Forth through a miasma of mist and murk, kindling green and purple fire from the sky. The story behind Burke & Hare is well known, and chillingly played out, with Anna-Wendy's fiddle joined by a large string section and some atmospheric percussion: there is a pub of the same name, but I don't think that's what she had in mind.

Grove Street and Edinburgh Nights lean more towards the classical genre, albeit with a jazzy modern edge. New Town is a glorious tune which is already appearing in sessions, and the gently weaving Audrey's Jig sums up its subject succinctly. Calton Hill sits between folk and fortepiano, the ensemble playing a little too staid for my taste. The grandeur of the final track is impressive, arraying a well known Scottish melody in all the majesty of an Edinburgh panorama. The words are interesting too - ranging from geological observations to poetic musings, including some from Anna-Wendy's best known ancestor. My Edinburgh makes a fine hour's entertainment in its entirety - 78 minutes and 60 seconds, apparently - but is also great to dip into for occasional tracks. Try for further information.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 88 of The Living Tradition magazine.