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DONNIE MUNRO - Heart of America

DONNIE MUNRO - Heart of America
Greentrax CDTRAX291

This the sixth solo album that Donnie Munro has released (apart from the customary 'Best of' and assorted DVDs), and he has at last recorded a consistently well produced selection of well chosen tracks, with a loosely common theme of Scottish emigration. He stresses in particular the exodus from Skye, a subject close to his heart (and mine, as my mother's family were cleared from Trotternish in the 1870s). Having said that, he appears to have run out of material on this subject half way through the project, and thus the last five tracks have the most tenuous of links to the Highland Diaspora (Raglan Road for goodness sake!).

The music itself showcases Munro at his best, particularly on the Gaelic songs, where his vocals perfectly complement the instrumental contributions. The guest soprano saxophonist Fraser Fifield shines brilliantly on Mhairead Òg, and Foss Paterson's keyboards are steadfast throughout. It's obvious that these arrangements mostly don't lend themselves to large stadium settings. They are intimate, atmospheric and at times emotionally fraught offerings, although Harvest Wind gives his obligatory nod to his Run Rig days.

The song with the best potential, Robin Williamson's October Song, instead finds his vocals lost in the mix behind the accordion of Blair Douglas and encroaching backing overdubs that strangle what deserves to be a plaintive solo voice, for best effect - and heavy driving drums compound the felony. Despite all that, I was moved by most of the tracks, and there were no real duds - only a few dodgy mixing decisions. He can keep his seat near the top of the class.

Grem Devlin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 70 of The Living Tradition magazine.