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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Between Islands 

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Between Islands 
An Lanntair Records LANCD006 

Under the direction of An Lanntair’s Alex Macdonald, the Between Islands projects were designed to explore songwriting, fiddle playing and folk music in the Northern and Western Isles, allowing collaboration between the island groups to encourage both traditional and innovative work. There were plans in place that would have seen the projects being featured at the 2020 Shetland Folk Festival and the 25th anniversary of HebCelt later that year. Well, we all know why those events didn’t happen, but out of adversity comes opportunity, and the end result is this double CD.

The principal artists here are Maggie Adamson, Louse Bichan, Willie Campbell, Kris Drever, Julie Fowlis, Jenny Napier Keldie, Neil Johnstone, Kathleen MacInnes, Linda Macleod, Jane Hepburn Macmillan, Arthur Nicholson and Saltfishforty, which, in itself, shows the depth of talent coming from the islands. Individually, all are highly-respected, and here they also enjoy the opportunity to form dynamic new partnerships.

The first disc is a set of studio recordings of the musicians in various combinations, playing and singing material which reflects on various aspects of island life and how that life relates to the bigger pictures of existence, including the conflicting feelings of wanting to leave and then experiencing homesickness. Some nicely crafted lyrics feature throughout.

All of disc two is recorded live – the fiddle project from An Lanntair and the folk project also from the Orkney Folk Festival, and they are exemplars of how live music should be presented. There is a good number of well-known tunes in there, and I’m sure many locked-down musicians would feel compelled to get out their instruments and join in at home.

The whole collection is complemented by a series of performances on YouTube, and the production standards throughout are superb. Top marks to everyone involved in what is a real showcase production.

Gordon Potter


This review appeared in Issue 139 of The Living Tradition magazine