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C“IG - Ashlar††

C“IG - Ashlar††
Private Label †

This Canadian quartet are no longer properly youngsters, but on their third album they're certainly still full of youthful energy. From two excellent Cape Breton fiddlers in Chrissy Crowley and Rachel Davis, plus piano ace Jason Roach and powerhouse Darren McMullen on fretted strings and flutes, Còig have produced another helping of varied and vital Celtic music. The deceptive start to Time And Tide soon gives way to a storming set of seafaring jigs and reels, and the aquatic theme continues with the song Deep Down In The River. There are five songs here - two contemporary ones in English with some intense emotions, two in Gaelic including a fine piece of mouth music, and one more I'll come to in a minute. Darren and Rachel share the vocals, with great arrangements and supporting tunes from their bandmates, and a helping hand from guitarist Dave Gunning.

Ashlar gives the impression of being mostly tunes despite the even balance of vocal and instrumental tracks. This is partly because of the way tunes are wrapped around and through the vocals, and partly because the instrumentals are just so good. In an eclectic set of Scots and Irish jigs, McGoldrick's Farewell To Whalley Range hits you between the eyes before McMullen follows up with his knockout composition, Uncle Leo's. The gentle oldtime piece, Farewell Trion, is a surprising favourite among many fiery new tunes by Còig members and composers such as Dan R MacDonald, Brenda Stubbert, James Duncan Mackenzie, Andrea Beaton and Gordie Sampson. The songs provide extra variety and some very fine singing, thoroughly enjoyable, with one exception. I don't mean to complain, but The Capable Wife is just fake news! This tale of how a woman can work much better than a man is so unfair: the wife sets the rules, the husband gets no training in her tasks, and there's no assessment of how well she performed at the ploughing. Talk about spin - if you'll pardon the pun - I demand a rematch with independent observers! We need as many people as possible to buy this album, and campaign for a song to redress the balance on Còig's next CD. 

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 129 of The Living Tradition magazine