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IAN SMITH A Celtic Connection

IAN SMITH A Celtic Connection
Private Label IS02

Ian is a songwriter from Ayrshire, who for many years now has been living near Burtonport in Co Donegal.  This album brings his two lives together, with many of his songs inspired by people and places around Donegal, set alongside some of the Scottish songs that have influenced and shaped his musical life.

Ian has a warm and expressive voice, and his guitar playing is sublime – he has an ornate finger picking style that is quite unique and instantly recognizable.  On this album he is joined by some fine musicians (including most of the members of Capercaillie) and with the CD being produced by Manus Lunny, the resulting accompaniment is as you would expect – top notch.  But although the arrangements are very sympathetic, at times I find myself wishing Ian’s guitar was more to the fore, and that there was a bit more space to hear it.

Of the 12 tracks recorded here, nine are Ian’s.  He is a skilled songwriter, and this is evident from the outset.  Upon Culloden’s Moor is a great song about the people who are left behind when others go to war, and a very strong start.  Emerald is a beautiful account of forbidden love leading to tragedy, and could easily sit alongside traditional songs of the same ilk.  But the song that steals the show for me is The Brightest Sky Blue.  Inspired by a local tale of a man whose wife left him, and who subsequently kept the door of his cottage open for 30 years awaiting her return, Ian masterfully weaves the story’s spell, painting a vivid picture for the listener and completely capturing the imagination.  It is a masterpiece.

The traditional Scottish material adds another dimension to the recording, and works well.  Ian sings versions of The Lea-Rig and Ae Fond Kiss, and the CD ends with Will Ye Gang Love, learned from Archie Fisher many years ago.  A fitting end to a great CD.

Any singer looking for some well-written, thoughtful, original material could do worse than look into some of Ian’s songs.  And do it quick before everyone else is singing them!

Fiona Heywood

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This album was reviewed in Issue 91 of The Living Tradition magazine.