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The Missing Gift
Footstompin' CDFSR1732

The Missing Gift illustrates this acoustic trio's tight, accomplished, intuitive playing, and Anna Massie's compositions dominate this thoroughly Scottish album. Each musician plays an equal role, though it's Anna's instrumental virtuosity that never fails to impress as she switches between guitar, fiddle, mandolin, tenor banjo and tenor guitar. Jenn, as ever, proves an inspired guitar accompanist, and Mairearad has a deft and lyrical touch on accordion and border pipes. The album, produced by Donald Shaw, is nicely sequenced and the witty sleeve notes match the banter you get at live gigs.

The first few tunes have Anna leading on fiddle, and easily the most enjoyable is title track, 'The Missing Gift' with superbly percussive guitar effects supported by a beautifully lyrical fiddle and accordion arrangement. The 'quieter', guitar-based tunes are excellent - the tenor guitar of 'The Silver Darlings', a tune written for Anna's parents' silver wedding anniversary, is full of warmth, and the tenor guitar and banjo of 'Big Lil' is amply matched by the subtle harmonies of the accordion. 'Blue Angel' features Anna solo, playing in her very impressive bluesy flat picking style, and the sparkling sound of mandolin makes its mark on 'Hilary's', robustly supported by accordion and accompanying guitar. The trio comes into its own in the last few tunes on the album, as Mairearad's border pipes or accordion blend seamlessly with fiddle and guitars.

My one criticism is that the two vocal tracks do seem to detract from the album's integrity. 'Hard Times' comes across as a flat, unimaginative vocal arrangement - it somehow just lacks that vital 'spark'. 'What You Do With What You've Got' fares a little better. It's the instrumental skill of all three musicians, however, that ultimately makes this album a success.

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 68 of The Living Tradition magazine.