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NORTH SEA GAS - The Fire And The Passion Of Scotland

NORTH SEA GAS - The Fire And The Passion Of Scotland
Scotdisc CDITV827

North Sea Gas is a trio comprising Dave Gilfillan, Ronnie MacDonald and Grant Simpson; the group name has been around for some 30 years and made 15 albums to date, although the most recent recruit to the line-up has been playing with the band for a mere seven years! With disarming modesty, they describe themselves as Scottish folk entertainers and their touring and recording CV is certainly fulsome proof of their continuing popularity. But I suspect they’re also a bit of a best-kept secret, for this exceptionally fine CD was my first encounter with North Sea Gas – and it sure won’t be my last.

These guys seem to have everything going for them, with their unpretentiously accomplished delivery and modestly undersold approach, with excellent singing (including appropriate harmonies) allied to superb, reliable musicianship. North Sea Gas share with the illustrious McCalmans combo (in whatever incarnation) all the above attributes together with the uncanny ability to unearth, select and put across some fabulous repertoire. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you love the McCalmans then you’ll love North Sea Gas.

For there’s a tremendous vigour and sense of commitment to North Sea Gas’ performances over a wide range of material, which on their latest offering includes at least two marvellous new discoveries: Tide Full In (Paul Mulligan’s irresistibly catchy setting of Francis Fahy’s poem), and Calling Down The Line (Alan Brydon’s masterly portrayal of the conflicting emotions associated with the Great War). Elsewhere, a delicately phrased account of Fear A’Bhata contrasts with suitably rousing takes on Aye No No, The Standard On The Braes O’ Mar, White Cockade and The Battle O’ Harlaw, while Allister MacGillivray’s haunting Song For The Mira receives welcome exposure alongside Alan Bell’s Windmills. Music-hall fun is represented by I’m Having A Bit Tonight (credited here to Charlie Chester), though this is perhaps the only item where the vocal arrangement is a trifle too fussy and elaborate for the song.

In summary, there’s no doubt that The Fire And The Passion Of Scotland is a well-rounded, generously stocked collection that really lives up to its title and can be very highly recommended.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 98 of The Living Tradition magazine.