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Private Label  MHRCD003

A third CD, and a third change of line-up, from this Glasgow-based harpist. Rachel Hair seems to be searching for her voice, and I have to say that this isn't it. No More Wings throws in a lot of vocals from Jenn Butterworth, which to my ear do not make up for the much more inventive guitar of Paul Tracey. In keeping with its title, this recording has a plodding earthbound feel which doesn't do Miss Hair's harp justice. Maybe she needs her wings back.

The Grey Funnel Line pretty much epitomises what I don’t like here. It's a song - already a bad start. It's an English song, not a natural idiom for Scottish musicians. It's a poignant bitter-sweet ballad, not a breathless bluesy love song. It's a song whose beauty is all in the words, yet Jenn's delivery concentrates on effect rather than substance. Ms Butterworth's flexible voice is more suited to her own song Island, where the words are rather less central, in the style of Lyle Lovett or Luka Bloom. Jesse Winchester's Americana musing My Songbird didn't inspire me either.

The eight instrumental tracks are much more impressive, but they could have been even better. Too often the instrumentals rely on vocal backing of a misty new-age nature, rather than a good solid beat or some tasty picking behind the shimmering harp. Cancro Cru is certainly pleasant enough, but the title track lacks bite and Swedish is oddly uneven. It takes Fraser Fifield's sax to kick-start Harsh Feb, after a Phil Cunningham tune taken at a Jimmy Shand pace. Fest Noz 17 is similarly listless until Angus Lyon joins in. Mr Fifield injects much of the energy into Eccentric's Emporium and is on hand to spice up Birthday Jigs, both tracks showcasing Rachel's enviable composing talents. Together with the classically beautiful slow air Home And Happy, there's plenty on this CD to show why Rachel Hair deserves a place at the harpers' top table. The choice of material, or the arrangements, let her down on several tracks. But that's just my opinion - see what you think of the samples at

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 92 of The Living Tradition magazine.