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Scottish Tradition Series No. 18 "Clo dubh Clo donn" CDTRAX 9018

'Clo dubh Clo dunn' is a re-release from the Scottish Tradition Series and it features 18 traditional Gaelic singers and their songs, recorded by the School of Scottish Studies in the 1950s, with the addition of one or two recorded in the 60s, 70s and 90s. All are unaccompanied.

The Scottish Tradition series has been an indispensable touchstone to the great oral traditions of Scotland, with the Gaelic oral traditional being, perhaps, the greatest beneficiary of the series of recordings. Some of the singers on this CD will be more familiar to those not wholly immersed in the tradition, including Kitty MacLeod, Flora MacNeil and William Matheson, than others. It is a credit to the long-running project of recordings undertaken by the SSS over the last fifty years that as much as it recorded the tradition's more well-known luminaries, it also reached the real hearthside of the tradition.

Singling out a few of the many musical gems to be found on this set, mention must be made of the Angus Kenneth MacIver's version of 'I ri iu o ro leannain'. Recorded in 1969, Angus, from Uig, Lewis, sings in what has become known as the traditional Lewis style. The song is a beautiful love lament and he sings its verses and refrain with detailed ornamentation, piecing together the melody as though it were a mosaic of inflection, with drama and emphasis coming from the words. It gives a real insight into the old music of Lewis. Calum Johnston and Flora MacNeil give a fine version of the waulking song 'Mhic Iarla nam bratach bana'. Recorded in 1951 this track is the earliest recording of Flora known to this writer and captures Flora's voice when she was in her early 20s.

There are many fascinating tracks on this CD and they have chosen with evident care presenting a wide-range of songs and styles. As such this is another must-have CD from the Scottish Tradition series.

Peter Urpeth

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This album was reviewed in Issue 44 of The Living Tradition magazine.