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Claytara Records CLCD091

Released in the same year as Roots 2, (CLCD092) Compass finds Stewart Hardy and Frank McLaughlin collaborating with a number of other musicians and using different recording approaches in a new collection of tunes and songs that brings something different to the mix.

Drum machines and other technology mix with musicians playing everything from Clarsach (Gaelic Harp) to whistles, small pipes, flute, accordion and cello, to provide a rich tapestry of sound.

Freedom Fries (The Brain) is an upbeat opening. The album also contains ballad like pieces such as The Clergyman’s Lament and Joy Together (a different arrangement to the opening track on Roots 2) whilst Mwche sounds like Afro Celt Sound System. Storm has a Tubular Bells type opening of haunting harp and bass, before a violin part takes it in a different direction. Wayfaring Stranger has a similar treatment.

First Day, unfortunately, has a very 80’s type sound, whilst Flake features hauntingly treated cello, and an ambience completely different to the rest of the album’s tracks. Although there is a lot to like about this CD, there is an over-reliance on programmed drum and bass parts, which at times seem to be jarring with the traditional instruments that are at the heart of the album’s sound.

Ben Macnair

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This album was reviewed in Issue 85 of The Living Tradition magazine.