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KEEP IT UP 'On Safari' Footstompin Records CDFSR1725

Four of Scotland's finest acoustic musicians follow up their 1998 debut with a cracking album that's guaranteed to get you wanting to dance! Musical empathy sparkles in this recording; particularly between fiddler Eilidh Shaw and concertina player Simon Thoumire - their intense lyricism dominates these 11 tracks. Malcolm Stitt ((Nusa/Boys Of The Lough) and Kevin MacKenzie (Sunhoney) create taut background rhythm - their deft picking lends the finest structure to these tunes.

The music is from Scotland, Ireland and Cape Breton, and spans the best part of 3 centuries. Thoumire seems to have a canny knack for tracking down a good tune, and includes examples here from Cape Breton transcriptions of Gaelic pipe music. This collection also revives some beautiful waltzes from Bobby MacLeod's music of the 1950's (in the aptly named 'Bobby'), and a very fine tune by Jimmy Shand, 'The Dundee City Police Pipe Band'. Eilidh Shaw's originals continue to impress ('The Grappa Groove'/'Drathairs na Theine'), and she brings some fabulous tunes learned from her dad to this album, exactly as she does in her fine work with the Poozies. She lends the most soporific of vocals to a fine lament called 'Gregor', and a laid back 'puirt' vocal to 'Arthur'. I managed to see one of Shaw's Poozies gigs last year, and her fabulous control of tone and texture on fiddle struck me then just as it does now.

This music is vibrant, exciting, rhythmic, and full of humorous touches. Thoumire's fiendishly dextrous concertina solo on 'Hector' epitomises his hallmark sound. The 'Pants' set showcases Keep It Up's sound perfectly - Shaw and Thoumire's musicality storms in on 'Drathairs na Theine' and 'Oran an Teine'; it's underpinned by Stitt and MacKenzie's magnificent rhythm-making, and it's all topped off by the superbly rousing 'Dan Breen's Reel'. The excellent artwork on the album cover hints at the delights within, with a humorous, colourful detail from Estonian artist Navitrolla's often-surreal work - it depicts an impossibly long-necked giraffe 'keeping it up' (his neck, that is) through the fluffiest of clouds.

In my dreams, excellent Celtic bands like Keep It Up tour the world constantly, making lots of us happy in the process!

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 58 of The Living Tradition magazine.