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DEAF SHEPHERD "Even in the Rain"

Christmas may be long over but there are still some crackers left, and this is most definitely one of them. "Even in the Rain" is the third CD released by Deaf Shepherd and it reinforces all the good things the band have done in their relatively short career, confirming their position in the Premier League of folk bands in Scotland.

The usual lineup of John Morran (guitar, vocals), Marianne Campbell (fiddle, vocals, piano), Clare McLaughlin (fiddle), Malcolm Stitt (bouzouki, vocals) and Rory Campbell (pipes, whistles, vocals) is joined by bodhran and percussionist Mark Maguire and instrumentally they are as tight and disciplined as ever. In addition, Deaf Shepherd possess the knack of making the correct choices to keep up the momentum in their tune sets. They can power on all cylinders when appropriate but other bands should take a listen to the Braemar Gathering set on this album where they cruise along subtly and let the melody carry the arrangement.

And don't forget the songs: John Morran has matured into one of the finest traditional singers doing the rounds and this album more than suggests that he's possibly unparalleled among present-day singers in his delivery of songs in Scots.

Standout tracks? I'd be quicker photocopying the sleeve. Nothing - repeat, nothing - lets down the album in any way. This is a band with all-round ability and presentation skills. It's their first release on their own label and there's even a bonus - the album is a CD-Rom and contains sleeve notes, lyrics, a video of the band in concert and interviews with its members. Thoroughly recommended.

Alan McIntosh Brown

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This album was reviewed in Issue 47 of The Living Tradition magazine.