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Shine "Sugarcane" Chocolate Records CHOC001CD

Each instrument has its own timbre, and the way it resonates affects how we hear it in a different way. I'm sure that most of us will have our favourite traditional instrument. The Camac Electro-harp is a unique instrument with its soft delicate tones boasting an almost otherworldly appeal. In Shine there's not just one of these harps, but two.

Shine is a trio comprised of well-established Scottish artists Alyth McCormack, Corrina Hewat, and Mary MacMaster. Mary's previous group Sileas did much to popularise the harp and clarsach in the late eighties via a clutch of fine records. Sugarcane can be seen as a distant, more contemporary cousin to those albums. Typically of Alyth who seems to thrive on discovery, this CD is a brave collection of songs that in different hands could have become bland and lacking direction. However there's a cohesion to Sugarcane making it one of the few albums I've heard so far this year that has been a joy to listen to from start to finish.

Sugarcane consists mostly of songs split between Gaelic and English with a couple of Burns' pieces thrown in for good measure. In a bid to search beyond the well-trodden path of traditional songs, a touching rendition of Sting's 'Fields of Gold' makes an interesting and unexpected departure from the norm. Whether it is a song or a tune, each composition on this CD has an ambience and serenity all of its own. Indeed the recommendation on the rear sleeve reads, 'file under: contemporary/ Scottish/ Celtic/ folk/ traditional/ chill out, well that just about covers it. I'd say file under 'must discover'.

Shine? They certainly do.

Keith Whitham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 49 of The Living Tradition magazine.