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'The String Sisters have arrived!  Imagine the Unusual Suspects, minus bagpipes and brass, and gone all girly and gorgeous.  The Sisters dealt a double whammy at their recent album launch, simultaneously releasing a live CD and DVD.  Catriona Macdonald, Emma Härdelin, Liz Carroll, Liz Knowles, Annbjørg Lien and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh play their collective socks off on both recordings, aided and abetted by their String Misters – Dave Milligan (piano), James Mackintosh (drums/percussion), Tore Bruvoll (guitar) and Conrad Ivitsky (double bass).  And what a sound they create (the recording quality is superb).  The Sisters thunder their way through an outstandingly musical set of first rate tunes, many originals composed by the Sisters, including Shetland Fiddle Diva, G-Strings, Luseblus (an ode to the head louse), Rumble Thy Bellyful, The Joy Of It!, The Fly and Dodger, Wackidoo, and much more besides. Beautiful vocal tracks too, including Mairéad’s haunting Matchmaking Song, or Emma’s startlingly pure Swedish vocal on The Hussar. 

Many readers will recall that the String Sisters first got together in January 2001 at Celtic Connections Festival.  Logistical difficulties prevented them reuniting until early 2005, when these recordings were made in Drammen Theatre, Norway.  I can’t help wondering why it’s taken two years to release them, but no matter, it’s been worth the wait for the quality of the music is wonderful, and sensually ravishing.  The Sisters happily met up again at Celtic Connections 2007, receiving a superb reception.  Liz Knowles said just after the Festival: "Performing and travelling with that group of people has been one of the most wonderful musical and personal experiences of my life”.Whether you’re watching the DVD or listening to the CD, the rapport and mutual respect between the Sisters is evident.   The instrumental skill of the Misters cannot go uncommented – guitar, piano, drumkit and bass conspire to provide solid rhythmic backing and masses of attack against an onslaught of fiddles – I suppose the instrumental flourishes come across better on the DVD, but it’s easy enough to picture Tore Bruvoll or Dave Milligan launching into a blistering solo just by closing your eyes.

Both album and DVD are similarly priced, with the latter running at just under 90 minutes (and, of course, with the bonus of song introductions, additional material and great visuals), so it’s your call.  I’m trying (and failing) to dispel the memory of the String Sisters’ supremely enjoyable Old Fruitmarket Celtic Connections gig from my mind as I write this review – the only difference between this recording and the gig I went to was that the Norway audience is slightly more reverential – very appreciative, though!   Outstandingly enjoyable recordings, I cannot recommend either highly enough.

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 74 of The Living Tradition magazine.