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HEATHER HEYWOOD - "By Yon Castle Wa" - Greentrax CDTRAX054

To say that Heather Heywood's second album has been long awaited is not an understatement. Since the 1987 release of her debut Greentrax album "Some Kind of Love", her voice has reached all parts of the World and has made a niche for her as Scotland's most acclaimed female singer. Not since the days of Jeannie Robertson has there been a talent that can tackle the epic ballads with such grace and dignity. Heather takes them and makes them into a new and richer experience each time. On "By Yon Castle Wa'", she features some of the greatest ballads the Scottish tradition can produce. The standouts are her handling of "MacCrimmons Lament", a truly wonderful piece with the dramatic narrative giving way to a beautiful extract from the piobaireachd "MacCrimmons Sweetheart". The chilling "Young Watters" is another standout as is the classic "Dowie Dens O' Yarrow" and "Far Over the Forth". "False False Hae Ye Been" and "The Corncrake Amang the Whinnie Knowes" all expertly display her ability to handle the serious ballads with great ability. She makes each song sound as though written for her.

She also has a wonderful ability with contemporary songs and some of the best newly written songs of recent years are here. Included is Hugh William's "Some People Cry" and his ability to evoke a truly emotional reaction through his songs is perfectly interpreted by Heather here. "The Sands o' the Shore" is another recent song often heard in singarounds that translates well to the recorded medium. "For a New Baby" is both eloquent and emotional losing nothing in the words being changed. "Paul's Song" is the most unusual here, but is a perfect way to close the album, an expert delivery of a lyric that has held the imagination of people for over 2000 years and still sounds both ideal and realistic at the same time.

Heather's interpretative powers have been will known in her native Scotland for many years. It's time the rest of the world took notice of her major talent. "By Yon Castle Wa'" is proof that she has emerged as the most powerful interpreter of Scottish song of her generation.

Heather Heywood has passed the acid text with flying colours and emerged triumphant. By Yon Castle Wa' is not just great album, it is a monster of an album. Hear it at your earliest opportunity. It is too good to miss.

John O'Regan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 1 of The Living Tradition magazine.