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Emily Smith "A Day Like Today" - Foot Stompin' Records CDFSR1716

There's always a delight in hearing a young voice in song - we don't hear enough of them in traditional music nowadays. So, when one of unusual promise emerges, it's even more a cause to rejoice. Having heard this CD, I reckon the rejoicing will be pretty loud. For here's a voice at once delicate and passionate, and authoritative and lambent: I can only wonder what it'll be like as Emily develops. I particularly look forward to hearing her version of The Cruel Mother in ten years time, say; it's very fine now, but by then...?

Emily, Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award winner 2002, is joined on the ten tracks by Ross Ainslie (whistles, pipes), Jamie MacLennan (fiddle) and Sean O'Donnell (guitar). Their accompanying is attractive, although sometimes Sean sounds rather chunky. (That said, he backs Green Grass Grows Bonny very nicely, plus providing some delicate harmony singing). Emily accompanies herself on piano, occasionally. This is pleasing, and on Molly, Lovely Molly, for instance, positively gorgeous.

Every song is traditional, save the title track; her own composition, it's excellent, and hopefully will soon join the general repertoire. A song of love betrayed its treatment is yet defiant, in contrast to the more resigned working of Green Grass Grows Bonny. This (already fine) song Emily handles superbly, including the man's arrogant swagger; the whole includes some lovely fiddle and whistle breaks as well. It was likewise good to hear the (too) rarely performed Fair Helen Of Kirkconnel, whilst Time Wears Awa, the album's only wholly unaccompanied, piece is similarly impressive.

The one thing that doesn't really work is the re-working of Rigs O' Barley: it might if it were taken slower. Attempted by a singer with less accurate intonation, audiences would simply miss some of its words. As it is, several are snatched, with Emily only just managing to cling on!

The CD's three instrumentals are uniformly enjoyable, whether traditional or new-made - like the handsome slow air Graham and Jilly's Wedding, composed by Ian Lowthian. All in all, this is an excellent beginning, a CD to be treasured.

Steve McGrail

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This album was reviewed in Issue 50 of The Living Tradition magazine.