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ROBYN STAPLETON - Fickle Fortune

ROBYN STAPLETON - Fickle Fortune
Laverock Records LAVE001CD

Robyn Stapleton is a young woman who has recently made quite an impression in Scotland and further afield, and it's easy to see why. She comes from Stranraer in Galloway, giving deserved exposure to a region which is not currently a hotbed of the music. This CD is a collection of traditional songs from Scotland, but also Ireland (there's even an Irish language song here) which, as Len Graham says, is just across the 'sheugh' from Galloway. Robyn has studied traditional music and has made a careful selection of songs, learned from some very valid sources, and her respect for traditional song is clear through her choice of material on this CD.

I first heard her at Girvan Folk Festival last year and was impressed by her confident and expressive unaccompanied singing. Robyn doesn't lack ambition on this CD, and her treatment of MacCrimmon's Lament is extremely tasteful, bringing out all the subtleties of this classic piece. It's done unaccompanied, and while the accompanists on other tracks are no less than skilful, I feel that the best tracks here are those with simple backing - Bonny Woodhall being beautifully treated, as is the lovely Blue-Eyed Nancy with its simple and unobtrusive piano backing.

Traditional music and songs often suffer when made over-complicated, sometimes at the behest of commercial interests, and an attempt to provide 'variety' for the concert stage may be the problem with some tracks here. Jock Hawk's Adventures In Glasgow is a great bothy ballad, with its own inbuilt rhythm, and it really doesn't become more interesting through such intrusive backing, while the band gets so excited and syncopated on the Two Sisters that it's hard to pick out the words of the later verses, which is a shame when there's such a powerful story to tell.

This is a much anticipated first CD from Robyn and it is to be hoped that there will be many more - she has a fine voice and let's hope she will continue to absorb the best of the tradition as she has up to now. We need young people to carry on the music, and Robyn has the ability to play a major part in carrying on traditional Scottish song through the generations.

Jim Bainbridge

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This album was reviewed in Issue 109 of The Living Tradition magazine.