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VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Ultimate Guide To Scottish Folk

VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Ultimate Guide To Scottish Folk
ARC Music EUCD2606

Firstly, can I just say that as soon as anybody proposes an ‘Ultimate Guide to...’ anything, they need to be aware that many people will say, “why have you included so and so?” or “where’s some other artist?”. It’s a tough task, reducing such a vibrant and diverse culture into two CDs, totalling about 2½ hours of music. This is not a bad stab at it, including new and old, solos and bands, traditional and contemporary.

Pretty much everything here is a valid inclusion, but the running order makes very little sense and in places is downright oddball. Dougie MacLean’s Bonnie Bessie Logan followed by The Bluebell Polka (yes, the Jimmy Shand version) in turn followed by Ceolbeg’s Zito The Bubbleman. It’s nice to hear Fred Morrison’s Kansas City Hornpipe and Breabach’s Proud To Play A Pipe, and I just love Lau’s Intro To Hinba. Gaelic is well represented, with Ossian, Capercaillie, Mischa MacPherson, Alasdair Fraser & Paul Machlis, Arthur Cormack & Blair Douglas, Skipinnish, Ishbel MacAskill and Kenna Campbell all contributing. Add in Aly Bain, Sheena Wellington and Isla St Clair and you get some idea of the breadth of material here. Dick Gaughan is memorable in his version of Brian McNeill’s No Gods & Precious Few Heroes (courtesy of Hamish Henderson) and Iron Horse’s Helen Of Kirkconnel is wonderful.

But the total effect of all this is that it’s a hotchpotch that seems out of control due to the way the tracks are ordered – and when considering who was and wasn’t included, well you can please some of the people some of the time, but you’ll never please all of the people all of the time. This will sell to the tourists by the bucket load though.

Grem Devlin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 111 of The Living Tradition magazine.