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CEOLBEG - "An Unfair Dance" - Greentrax CDTRAX058

For those who may be unfamiliar with the name, Ceolbeg are a six piece outfit from Scotland who have, after several years playing folk clubs and smaller halls have got their act together in the last couple of years and headed outwards and upwards. This new offering is likely to help them on their way.

Although firmly rooted in the folk tradition, the arrangements here encompass a wide range of influences and they've come up with some very interesting arrangements indeed. Of the five tracks which feature vocals from Davy Steele, the self-penned "The Collier's Way" is the only one which sounds like it could have been a traditional song, such is the individual treatment given to "The Jolly Beggar" and "My Love is like a Red, Red Rose".

Of the other two Steele compositions "Stand Together" strays into UB40 territory with its smooth, lilting reggae beat and "Seton's Lassie" has a faintly 1950s rock'n'roll feel to it.

The instrumental pieces are varied and original - traditional melodies from Galicia sit neatly alongside items composed by band members Wendy Stewart and Gary West (Wendy's "An Unfair Dance" which provides the album's title is described as a "comment on life for those of us 'blessed' with two left feet",a fact which endears them to this reviewer right away).

The playing throughout is vibrant, the arrangements clever without being overbearing, and, it must be said, this is a pretty impressive collection of tunes. On a personal note, I could have done without the reggae, but I found the admission in the sleeve notes that "The Clumsy Lover has been a favourite of the band for several years now", strangely endearing. But what does that say about their personal lives?

Jim Welsh

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