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FREELAND BARBOUR & FRIENDS - The Music And The Land: The Concert

FREELAND BARBOUR & FRIENDS - The Music And The Land: The Concert
Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX392

From the moment you put this recording on, you’re transported into the world of traditional Scots culture by one of its most able and enthusiastic exponents and swept bodily (it seems) into a night of music, dance, song, recitation and laughter. Freeland is aided and abetted by a stellar cast in the Occasional Band; and the special guests include Ross Ainslie, Simon Thoumire, Phil Cunningham and Martin Carthy, so you can rest assured that there’s no lack of musical ability!

The CD shares its title with the pair of books produced by Birlinn last year for Freeland, which combined music and photography in a sumptuous evocation of the Scottish landscape and traditional culture, and the resulting concerts have spawned this CD. The tracks are divided roughly 50/50 between traditional and Freeland’s own compositions, with a smattering of additional material from other sources; it’s a rich and varied mixture, but the overall feel is unmistakably Scots, with all that that entails in terms of variety. The listener is transported from jigs and reels through airs and hornpipes to recitations and a beautiful bilingual spoken lament for land lost in the clearances.

It’s all here, and the common thread is provided by the musical imagery of the landscape and by Freeland himself. His playing is superb – precise and controlled, and yet full of the emotion that typifies music at its best, and bubbling over with good humour. He’s joined by his various guests on numerous tracks, while those guests also get their own time under the spotlight.

Highlights? There are so many that to pick a few out would be to do an injustice to the rest of the CD. All I know is that you’ll get up from listening to this with a smile on your face, and a lasting regret that you weren’t in the audience at the recordings. It’ll stay close to my turntable for a good while.

John Waltham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 117 of The Living Tradition magazine.