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VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Rough Guide To Scottish Music

VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Rough Guide To Scottish Music
Rough Guides RGNET1310CD

Mary Ann Kennedy, who compiled this set, artfully sidesteps the need to identify what Scottish music is in the sleeve notes, where she praises “the reimagining of traditional music... as part of a modern, mobile and cosmopolitan world”. In other words, it's the same as everywhere else's music. It is, of course, interesting how certain songs and tunes moved around these islands and back and forth across the Atlantic, changing along the way. At least it was interesting when they were carried by workers and convicts and people who travelled by boat. Now that it all happens instantaneously and in mp3 format, it holds less fascination.

Without wishing to appear banal, the pipes are sorely neglected on this CD in favour of electronica. But, as usual with Rough Guide albums, it holds quite a few gems. Kathleen MacInnes is stunning on Oran Dhomhnaill Phadraig Iagain, one of the few tracks which makes room, albeit briefly, for the pipes. There is a lovely understated version of Burns' Ae Fond Kiss by Rachel Sermanni. And the highly produced Tinsel Show by Karine Polwart is contemporary, yet gorgeous.

Scottish musicians, fair enough, but Scottish music? The Campbells of Greepe - masters of Gaelic mouth music and one of the great dynasties of Scottish piping and song - are represented here by “a song inspired by the Coen brothers film O Brother, Where Art Thou?” which would be great to hear at a gig, but on a CD supposedly celebrating Scottish music? I'm not so sure.

However, the aforementioned Ms Kennedy redeems herself with her contributions on vocals and clarsach to the 2000 debut album by Cliar, which is included as a bonus CD. Still no pipes, but 55 beautiful minutes of identifiably Scottish music.

Graham Gurrin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 102 of The Living Tradition magazine.