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Toun Records TOUNCD01

In a confident, brave and innovative debut album, Kirsty Law, a young singer-songwriter from the Borders, conjures the atmosphere of Scots moor, farm and countryside, conveying warmth amidst cold and sparse landscapes. These are songs of the land and its people, of shepherds and fishwives, magic and poetry.

With echoes of Sophie Bancroft and Jeannie Robertson, Kirsty’s voice, relaxed, unforced and very much at home with the Scots dialect, is the focal point of the 12 tracks. These combine the old and the new; borrowed tunes, lyrics and stories blend with Kirsty’s own compositions and collaborations involving other composers. Four tracks are entirely self-penned, including the wonderful Soutra Aisle with its enchanting melody and tale of a 12th century ruin and the plight of young women there. Two tracks are unaccompanied singing, and there are two traditional songs – Lament Of The Border Widow and The Twa Sisters, each given a revitalised treatment.

Accompaniment comes mainly from Kirsty’s own band, consisting of a duo of highly competent musicians. Marit Fält from Norway plays Låtmandola and cittern, while the violin playing of Rona Wilkie (Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2012) soars, swoops, or weeps, with urgency or poignancy, superbly matching and enhancing the moods of the songs.

Steeped in the authenticity of traditional culture, yet with an up-to-date feel, Shift is a refreshing exercise demonstration of vocal diversity and word-play, a reminder that Scots singing and the Scots tongue remain vibrant. There will be much more to come from Kirsty Law.

Jim McCourt

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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.