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BACK OF THE MOON Fortune's Road Foot Stomping Records CDFSR1720

Scotland is currently awash with youthful traditional music talent, definitely helped by the ever-expanding provision of traditional music courses. Back of the Moon is one such example of this, three members being graduates of the Scottish music degree course at the prestigious Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama run by multi-instrumentalist Brian McNeill. They are now reaping the success and recognition that they thoroughly deserve.

Two criticisms of many young groups are the constant high speed of their instrumental playing, resulting in an irritating wall of sound, and the lack of songs. Back of the Moon are not guilty of this, with even their up-tempo tracks very listenable. The album is an excellent broad based mixture of traditional songs and tunes and some of their own compositions, with each of the group's members allowed the opportunity to lead. As someone whose personal preference is traditional song, the album is a particular delight for me. All of the group members are fine singers, with first class guitarist Findlay Napier particularly adept at the strong gusty ones and fiddler Gillian Frame and keyboard player Hamish Napier excelling on the quieter and more sensitive songs.

There is not a single track on the album that I dislike and there are some particular gems. My favourite is the song Baron of Brackley, a Scottish tale of murder and theft, not an uncommon theme in Scottish traditional music! This is wonderfully sung by Hamish, whose accompaniment on keyboards is always excellent. The use of the border and uilleann pipes is particularly effective throughout the album and their revival in Scottish traditional music is most welcome. Simon McKerrell's piping is very much to the fore in a number of tracks such as Mrs Maclean and The Goatherd and the Shepherd. With the 2001 Scottish Young Traditional Musician of the Year on fiddle, it goes without saying that Gillian's contribution to the group is immense. For example, the traditional Skye Air is beautifully performed in a simple fiddle and guitar combination, a slow air at its finest, while her fiddling is prominent in her self-penned composition Thomas Andrew Takes The Train, Nine Pint Cloggie and other tracks.

While many groups lack a competent singer, all three members of Back of the Moon are more than able, with three of them taking lead vocals at some point. When all four share vocals, the resulting harmony sound is strong and powerful, very appropriate for the rousing songs Blackwatch and Johnny Cope.

For newcomers to Scottish traditional music and song, this album would be an excellent choice and for the group's ever-increasing number of fans, an essential purchase.

Dave Dewar

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This album was reviewed in Issue 53 of The Living Tradition magazine.