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Private Label FRSOM164 

This release teams seasoned Scottish singer Fiona (based in Australia) with Australian guitarist Shane O’Mara, and it’s a superb example of just what can be achieved with minimal resources (one voice, one guitar). It’s obvious from the outset that this is an inspired teaming, such is the feeling of intuitive mutual supportiveness between singer and musician, where each is cognisant of, and fully responsive to, each other’s proven skills. And the chosen repertoire – traditional and what might be termed nigh-traditional Scottish song – fits both participants like a glove. Though a good proportion of these songs will be familiar – and Fiona’s clearly been singing them and honing her interpretations over many years – you’ll be hard pressed to find more persuasive accounts. And the disc also contains a couple of real discoveries: Capernaum, Lewis Spence’s harsh commentary on Scotland’s bloody past, receives a stark setting by Ed Miller, while John Gray’s composition Caller O’u evocatively echoes the cries of the 19th century creel lasses selling their wares.

Fiona’s a forthright yet unaffected singer: both assured and robust in timbre and control, with abundant tonal depth as well as real strength of character. She possesses a natural ability to conjure and command any emotion the songs demand, from forlorn resignation (The Slave’s Lament) to cheeky satire (Cam Ye O’er Frae France) and almost knowing defiance (This Is No’ My Plaid), from the poignant expression of friendship (a perfectly realised Auld Lang Syne) to dramatic storytelling (a magnificently involving unaccompanied rendition of the muckle ballad Mill O’ Tifty’s Annie).

Shane’s guitar work is both perfectly measured and impeccably judged; boosting the melody line and supporting and mirroring its mood instead of distracting from its beauty.

A firm recommendation for lovers of Scots song repertoire

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 135 of The Living Tradition magazine