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IAN WALKER - Crossing The Borderlines FE088

This recording is a collaboration between Scottish singer-songwriter Ian Walker and the traditional band Setanta, with Irish singer Colin McAllister and Lanarkshire-based musicians Mike Berry (fiddle), Jack Bethel (hammered dulcimer), Hunter McConnell (guitar and singer) and David Munro (Uillean Pipes) who is from Fife.

Ian Walker's songs very much reflect his personal vision, of which tolerance, concern for others, family and friendship all play a distinct part. These memorable songs, sung by Ian, are beautifully arranged and accompanied by Setanta.

Their ability to feel a song correctly has led to the dramatic arrangement of the anti-war song "Remember Solferino", the Calypso rhythm of "The Anchor Line" (co-written by Ian Bruce) as well as the rather catchy "Whatever You Think". The harmonies sung with Ian by Colin and Hunter work very well, especially on "The Healing Touch".

All this is to say that the fans of Ian Walker will be pleased with this album. It gives Ian a "new sound" without taking away a bit of his already considerable appeal.

However, I have reservations about the collaboration. I feel it sells Setanta a wee bit short. They are one of the best traditional bands around, and deserve to have more than just their single previous recording to themselves.

Colin's stately rendition of the Irish emigration song "Slaibh Gallion Braes", and Hunter's version of Robert Burns open-hearted, vulnerable romantic ballad "The Soldier's Return" are gems I return to again and again. One song apiece from these two talented traditional singers is nowhere near enough.

Setanta have an unpretentious love of the music they play and sing. The dance tunes are all played at a danceable pace. The arrangements are subtle, the transitions between tunes are well though out, and each instrument is featured occasionally in a appropriate place.

They play one "modern" tune, "Ponte Isabella", which is written by an Italian friend of theirs, Enzo Palombella. It builds in an almost classical fashion from the solo chimes of the hammered dulcimer to the full band, with frequent returns to the lovely theme tune. It is one of the best things the band has done to date.

Setanta is probably my favourite traditional band at the moment. While I thing the collaboration with Ian Walker has potential for future projects, I would hate to see them concentrating on the music of others at the expense of their own. They are far too original for that.

I suppose this recording does what all good recordings should do - it makes me wish there was more of it!

Janet Foley

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This album was reviewed in Issue 1 of The Living Tradition magazine.