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THE FINLAY MACDONALD BAND "Pressed For Time" Footspomping Recordings CDFSR1721

This is the second CD release from Finlay MacDonald, a brilliant young piper/whistle player who learned his craft from his father, Pipe Major Iain MacDonald, and later under the tutelage of Duncan Johnstone and Pipe Major Angus MacDonald. He's joined by Chris Stout (Fiddler's Bid/Salsa Celtica) on fiddle, Fergus MacKenzie (Sunhoney) on drums, Kevin MacKenzie (Sunhoney) on guitar, and Quee MacArthur (Shooglenifty/Sunhoney) on bass. The exciting pedigree of this group of accomplished musicians tells you you're in for a vibey, rhythm-filled listen. MacDonald himself is equally at home playing Highland or Border pipes or whistles - and plays with great fluidity and obvious relish. He's one of the new breed of young Scottish musicians, keen to explore their country's musical heritage in greater depth, and was one of the first students to graduate in Scottish Music from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

The material consists of a good smattering of traditional tunes set to very contemporary, jazz-tinged, groove-filled arrangements. The guitar, bass and drum provide an inspired, solid backbone to every number. There are also a few fine tunes from MacDonald himself, and some excellent covers of tunes by the likes of Simon McKerrell, Charlie McKerron and Gordon Duncan.

The music is from Czechoslovakia, Brittany, Macedonia - as well as from Scotland! I love Macedonian Tune, with its hypnotic rhythms and sultry, eastern-sounding pipes and fiddles. Alastair's Vintage Bar is a truly exquisite, gentle tune, where Stout's viola playing brims with feeling. Most of the livelier jigs and reels are vibrant, full-on sessions that would sound absolutely brilliant live. No wonder the Finlay MacDonald Band is in such demand at festivals, clubs etc. Breton Set is a joyful set of reels, and the whistles on My Mighty Friend exude a playful lyricism (I think future albums should be weighted in favour of more whistle tunes, on the strength of this one!) Bulgarian Red gathers momentum nicely; the excellent guitar work and laid-back grooves are soon firmed up by MacDonald's lightning-quick border pipes. He cranks up the pace yet again on the album's closing number Pressed For Time, this time on Highland pipes - what a heady and satisfying close to this fine album. You won't stay in your seat for long when you see this band live!

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 56 of The Living Tradition magazine.