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HAMISH NAPIER - The Railway 

HAMISH NAPIER - The Railway 
Strathspey Records SRCD02 

Songs about the railroad have long formed a staple of American music from blues to folk and bluegrass. Indeed much of Norman Blake’s output over the decades has featured his songs lamenting the death of the old railroads in Alabama. Hamish Napier has done a fine job here of following that tradition with a concept album of sorts, commissioned by the Grantown East Highland Heritage Centre, and inspired by stories from the old drivers and signalmen who worked the old lines in the Eastern Highlands.

Napier is a well known flute player and composer, and writes all the music here apart from two songs by brother Findlay. It is his second solo album and includes some fine strong new tunes. The slower tracks tend to work better. The Firebox, a jig in F#m, is a superb tune, and the funky The Station sets a solid rock pulse. Cheery Groove is a fine flute led jig. Some more up-tempo tunes, including the song Jocky The Mole, perhaps stray too far into Skipinnish type territory. It is the more considered pieces which shine through, although Diesel drives along at a cracking pace. Of the 2 songs, The World Came In By Rail works particularly well and laments the Beeching cuts.

The line-up features, amongst others, Fraser Stone on drums, James Lindsay on double bass, Ewan Robertson on guitar, Patsy Reid on fiddle and Ross Ainslie on pipes. The CD is handsomely packaged with extensive notes and photographs. The album grows on you with each listen; it is finely crafted and won’t disappoint.

John Carnie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 126 of The Living Tradition magazine.