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Greentrax CDTRAX288

In the face of pan-celtic homogenisation, the Whistlebinkies have steered a proud and true course. Based around a core of traditional Scottish instruments: pipes, flute, fiddle and clarsach they have much in common with their Irish counterparts The Chieftains. As soon as you hear their first notes they sound instantly Scottish - in the same way that the Chieftains for many are the epitome of the Irish sound. Like them, they use no instrumental gimmicks - no electronics, no guitars driving the rhythm section - and rely on both the quality of the music and their own superb musicianship to produce the desired results.

There is a chamber music feel to much of this album, underlined by the "classical" acoustic - a large room with a fair bit of "bloom" around the instruments, especially the flute. There is some great music here - many fine tunes, both rescued from ancient books of music and written by contemporary components and all are given an appropriate setting. The quick tunes fly - the pipes especially generating some excitement. Many though are more contemplative with washes of clarsach as a foundation for the solo instruments: others are more fun, cheekier - but all of them feel controlled: there's never any real sense of the musicians letting their hair down. There's only one disadvantage for me: the song. The singer has a reasonably wide and consistent vibrato allied to very correct pronunciation - so whilst the song is sung well, it reminds me more of the White Heather Club than I should like. A small blot on a distinguished issue.

Paul Burgess

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