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Springthyme SPRCD1016

A blast from the past alright: I remember when this album came out in 1985, the first recording of funky modern music on solo clarsach. Since then there have been many more such forays by young harpists, some even funkier, but Tickled Pink has stood the test of time, for three reasons (pace Douglas Adams). First, Savourna was starting from a clean slate and was thus able to pick and choose from the tradition: she selected The Trip We Took Over The Mountains, The Monaghan Jig and other great melodies from Ireland, The Auld Noost and Sleepy Maggie amongst others from Scotland, tunes which are as fresh today as they were thirty years ago. Second, she had the good fortune or foresight to choose Aly Bain as her partner for several tracks on this recording: Aly's fiddle is magnificently versatile here, as you'd expect, particularly on the extended version of The Trip We Took Over The Mountains which was not included on the original LP. And third, of course, the album has an orange cover with the words Tickled Pink written on it in large friendly letters!

For those unfamiliar with Savourna's music, she is a harpist and composer from the Scottish borders who continues to write and record challenging contemporary pieces. Tickled Pink was her first solo album, and is among her most traditional recordings. Most of the music on this CD is solo harp playing traditional melodies - airs as well as reels and jigs, a couple of English pieces but mostly Irish and Scottish. One of the attractions here is Savourna's own compositions Jalan and the title track, memorable modern music with fascinating rhythms. In the intervening years, a couple of these tunes have become clichés: Planxty Irwin is one I used to teach to whistle classes in the eighties, a lovely air but no longer popular in many sessions, while Savourna's Edinburgh contemporary Donald Stewart recently railed against the continuing popularity of The High Road To Linton which Savourna included as a tribute to her birthplace. Music and recording may have moved on - although it's worth noting that this album was originally recorded in digital audio on Sony Betamax tape - but Tickled Pink still cuts the mustard. The extra track is a brilliant bonus. Incidentally, Springthyme seem to be re-releasing other albums, including the 1984 Sprangeen debut, another welcome addition to the harp repertoire on CD.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 93 of The Living Tradition magazine.