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RUNRIG - Party On The Moor

RUNRIG - Party On The Moor
Ridge Records RR073

Forty years peddling Gaelic rock and what have they got to show for it? A worldwide following, dozens of albums, godlike status in certain quarters and a solid reputation in their homeland among Gaelic speakers and traditional musicians. Singers, pipers, fiddlers and ceilidh bands have picked up the MacDonald brothers' songs and tunes and they, in turn, have used traditional melodies and instruments throughout their career. Runrig never sold out and consequently never made the millions they were capable of: but as a result they never lost touch with their audience, particularly in Scotland and across the Scottish diaspora. That's why, when it came to their 40th birthday, a massive live gig in the highlands made sense. The resulting live CDs (three of them) contain nearly three hours of celebratory music. I've no idea how long the after party lasted - maybe it's still going.

Some of the songs here were new to me: Book Of Golden Stories, Clash Of The Ash, Pride Of The Summer and one or two more. Others are old favourites: Dance Called America, An Ubhal As Airde, Protect And Survive, Loch Lomond of course, Skye (9 minutes, the longest track here) and Alba. My favourite isn't actually included: perhaps it'll be on the 50th birthday album. I'm not a devoted fan of Runrig. I've been to a couple of gigs, missed a couple of albums and played music with a couple of the band members. I do have enormous respect for what they do, but even so I was surprised at how easy it was to listen to 29 tracks of Scottish rock. I don't think I've ever done that before, but this is something special. Special guests too, of course: their most famous singer Donnie Munro back for a visit, old boy Peter Wishart dropping in, a pipe band naturally, and while you're west of Inverness why wouldn't you invite local lad Duncan Chisholm and the Highlands' darling Julie Fowlis?

A handful of hard-core Gaelic songs, a couple of instrumental tracks with the brilliant self-effacing Malcolm Jones picking up his bagpipes and almost two dozen rock anthems from Bruce Guthro who stepped into Donnie's brogues 15 years ago: this is a broad sweeping portrait of Runrig across, as Donnie says, "dà fhichead bliadhna" - two score years. There's a DVD too, by the way, probably worth a look, but if you're wanting a soundtrack for a journey - any journey - this album will keep you jigging and singing for the best part of a day. I defy you to listen to the whole thing sitting still!

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 102 of The Living Tradition magazine.