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SANGSTERS "Sharp and Sweet" Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX207

This is the long-awaited follow up album from the Fife group who put the accent firmly on the voice. It's been all of eight years since their debut album "Begin" opened our ears to the glories of (mostly) traditional songs arranged for three voices and a guitar accompaniment that remembered at all times that it was an accompaniment and let the voices shine through.

So, eight years on and what's different? Well, Sangsters three are now Sangsters four with the addition of singer/guitarist John Blackwood to augment the trio of Anne Combe (now MBE - congratulations!), Fiona Forbes and Scott Murray but the solo singing, harmonies and simple accompaniments are still in place and as true as ever. There's a sense of space in the songs, too, with an uncluttered feel to each track.

The choice of songs once again leans heavily on the traditional and traditional-sounding with Sangsters' compliments to Robert Burns in no less than nine of them, but there's new material from Andy M Stewart in a beautiful version of "Lover's Heart", a fine Rick Kemp song "Somewhere Along the Road", and the Angus poets are represented by "Lassie Think Lang" by Marion Angus (set to Scott Skinner's "Cradle Song") and Violet Jacob's "Hallowe'en" (set to music by Jim Reid). There's also a couple of songs from the Beggar's Mantle itself in "Guiding Light, Evening Star" and "A Dyker's Compliments to Her Neighbours", both written by Scott Murray, with the latter sealing its fate of ever being played on Radio 3 by having as the opening line of its chorus 'Keep yer ain fish guts tae yer ain sea maws.' Now that's whit I cry poetry, ken?

In a word - excellent.

Alan McIntosh Brown


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This album was reviewed in Issue 42 of The Living Tradition magazine.