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VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Complete Songs Of Robert Tannahill, Volume IV

VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Complete Songs Of Robert Tannahill, Volume IV
Brechin All Records CDBAR029

Here’s the penultimate volume of the series which began a little over a decade ago. It continues under the continuing stewardship of Dr. Fred Freeman, who is again responsible for bringing Paisley’s 18th-century weaver/poet’s compositions to life through his own musical adaptations (worked up through creative dialogue with the musicians). As throughout the series, Freeman’s modus operandi may embrace the amendment of lines or adding of choruses or refrains in a quest for greater singability, but this is always managed with respect for authenticity of idiom and carried out in a thoroughly believable context.

The songs are realised by a hand-picked pool of singers and musicians. Among these, the marvellous voices of Fiona Hunter, Rod Paterson, Brian Ó hEadhra and Wendy Weatherby provide continuity with volume 3 and that of Ross Kennedy with Volume 1. Claire Hastings, Volume 4’s ‘new kid on the block’, turns in four particularly attractive performances including Unrequited Love & The Fareweel whose melody has something of the air of a seductive Russian folk-tune. Freeman’s open-minded approach to musical setting and arrangement enables much freshly contemporary-sounding music, with flavours of jazz (Ma Days Have Flown), blues (The Wandering Bard), klezmer (Killoch Burn) and Irish folk music (Green Inismore, The Irish Farmer), alongside – or woven in with – traditional Scottish folk forms and frameworks. Instrumental backing, courtesy of the likes of Stewart Hardy, Aaron Jones, Angus Lyon, Sandy Brechin, Marc Duff, Adam Bulley and Frank McLaughlin, is predictably top-notch, and the musicianship is both irresistible and at all times brilliantly matched to the singers. And recording, production and presentation are once again of exemplary house standard.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 119 of The Living Tradition magazine.