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RUNRIG "Proterra" Ridge Records RR021

The word "versatile" could have been invented for Runrig, and it's especially evident in this, their 12th studio album, which marks the 30th anniversary year of a group rightly labelled "one of Scotland's premier folk rock bands". Masters of fusion, Runrig have been blending folk, pop and rock with traditional Gaelic and Celtic music since they emerged as a ceilidh dance band in 1973 and it's worth remembering that they were the first to get a Gaelic language song into the UK Top 20.

I like this moving, multi layered album more every time I listen to it . You could be listening to half a dozen different bands such is their ability to shift the genre. The brothers MacDonald (Calum and Rory), front man Bruce Guthro, guitarist and piper Malcolm Jones, drummer Iain Bayne, and young keyboard player Brian Hurren are joined by a special guest on this album - Brazil-based Scottish musician Paul Mounsey. Although most of the 13 tracks are from the MacDonald pen, all band members have played their part in this album whilst Mounsey has reworked two tracks from their 1981 "Recovery" album - The Old Boys and An Toll Dubh. On the latter the first verse is sampled from the original and switches to the new, spanning the years.

Proterra (Latin for 'For the land') is an uplifting album showing just what a tight band this is whether playing the gorgeous, caressing melodies in The Old Boys to the rockier Day of Days or the folky and mellow All the Miles composed by Bruce and Malcolm - not to mention the pipes-laced Heading to Arcadia and the brooding war song From the North.

The glorious and upbeat title track was taken from the Celtic legend about two sons of the Clan Donald chief who were given the opportunity to succeed him with the decision resting on a rowing race. Neck and neck almost to the shore, one brother severed off his own arm and threw it onto the land to claim victory. By contrast, two memorable numbers recall September 11th, 2001 - There's a Need with its line ' hopes are towers in the skies' and the instrumental and poignant postscript Angels from the Ashes, written by Runrig founder member Blair Douglas.

The cinematic approach Runrig wanted for the album is carried through in a Dali-esque CD cover. As well as being a celebration of three decades of doing what they do best, Proterra was seen as a project to define where Runrig currently stand musically and culturally. The answer for this enduring band surely has to be in the top echelons..

Jane Brace

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This album was reviewed in Issue 55 of The Living Tradition magazine.