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SHOOGLENIFTY - The Untied Knot 

SHOOGLENIFTY - The Untied Knot 
Shoogle Records SHOOGLE15015

Shock horror! Shooglenifty sings! Eight tracks with vocals from Kaela Rowan on this eleven-shot salvo from Edinburgh's ultimate men of few words: it's not clear whether Ms Rowan is a guest, a groupie, or a girl-band infiltrator, but she can certainly sing, high clear Gaelic in a style somewhere between Talitha MacKenzie and Mary Jane Lamond. Red-haired Donald the piper and his wife, the curse of love, pretty boys and dancing girls: Kaela delivers all the standard ingredients of a highland ceilidh, as well as a new bite of the well-chewed Fionnghuala spiked with a side-order of classical Indian canntaireachd. Plus some of the finest backing musicians in the known universe, who shoot line after darting line of new melody between the words.

As for the lads, their familiar tuneless moans and groans punctuate some splendidly steezy string band music. Cracking new compositions from Grant, MacPherson, Mackintosh, MacArthur and more. Traditional treasures funked up and boogied down. And, as if that wasn't enough, piper extraordinaire Ross Ainslie and eclectic pianist Dave Milligan add their first class talents, as do old boys Conrad Ivitsky and Luke Plumb. It's a Plumb piece that stands out for me, the surprisingly lively Arms Of Sleep, which combines trademark clawed banjo and mandolin with the smooth fiddling of Angus R and the dirty driving back line which makes those whisky kisses seem positively chaste by comparison. Another vocal number, a final matrimonial reference, and the CD is over, the whirling slows and stops. I push the button again. Bliss. 

Alex Monaghan

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