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Shouty Records SHOUTYCD02

The latest collaboration from these two multi-talented Scots is a purely instrumental affair, 12 sets of tunes traditional and new. Anna and Mairearad's own compositions account for about a third of the material here, with additional composing credits going to recent Scottish and Irish musicians from Manus Lunny to Donald MacLeod, Niall Vallely to Donald Shaw. If you thought you were in for a bit of Blue Danube box-playing, with some gentle guitar and maybe a wee song or two, think again: this CD is fiery, contemporary, right in your face, and very much up my street. Traditional too, of course. Massie and Green open with a set of stonking Scottish reels and quasi-reels, given the name T-Shirts In March which for me evokes those hairy barbarians from Sunderland to Skye, probably with bagpipes, possibly with several teeth missing. Bob And Alison's Wedding from Mairearad leads into Rory Campbell's swinging Nusa, and then a Duncan Moore composition which fairly flies on box and banjo.

Life In The Vass Lane and Ellie's March progressively slow the pace, from a relaxed American-style breakdown to a charming Scots retreat, both featuring Massie compositions. Mairearad switches to pipes for the MacCrimmon tune McCrea's Delight, a terrific piece of lyrical piping. Then, just as you think Anna might break into song, the box is back with a belting set of jigs and polkas. Cooney-style guitar gives way to Swedish fiddle for the slowest track on Doubling. A set of strathspeys and reels in the classic manner, including You Can't Play A House (with the obvious exception on Leith Walk) brings us to one of my favourite tracks here.

Box and banjo may tax some people's tolerance, but these lasses go one better, combining banjo and highland pipes for the monster traditional reel Miss Proud. So she should be: she's a cracker. The following set of modern jigs is a virtuoso exercise on the accordion, showing Mairearad's ability to rival the control and attack of Colette O'Leary, Karen Tweed and the like. Next it's Anna's turn to strut her stuff, flat-picked guitar on a pair of old-style hornpipes. Then comes the wind up to the big finish: more octopus and lollipop music, jigs this time, before a typical piece of Ian Carr madness and a lovely swaggering Green reel lead us to the surprisingly understated final set. No big finish after all, but a beautiful last track nonetheless. Doubling is all Mairearad & Anna, overdubbed at times hence the name, and it's definitely the best I've heard from them. This is as warm and engaging as any recent Scottish album, enormously enjoyable. And if you really miss that big finish, just listen to track 1 again. In fact, why stop there?

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 97 of The Living Tradition magazine.