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VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Flooers O The Forest

VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Flooers O The Forest
Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX1513

Greentrax have certainly established the gold standard for themed compilation CDs: they put together the essential (and the obvious), the rare, the forgotten and the unique to create a thoroughly satisfying musical soundscape, supported by extensive and informed track and sleeve notes. This particular CD was put together to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the battle of Flodden Field. Its 15 tracks are framed by two versions of the title song: it concludes with a version by piper Gary West and opens with Dick Gaughan’s stately 7½ minute version. This is immediately followed by Archie Fisher’s Ettrick, an outstanding live recording.

One might think that, having fired such big guns in an initial salvo, the album was bound to tail off. The names might be less high profile (though they include Karine Polwart, Lau and The Owl Service) and the songs less familiar, but rest assured the high standards of content, performance and quality are maintained throughout. Unable to lease The McCalmans’ Recruiting Service Drum, Greentrax recorded a version that more than matches the original, with Ian McCalman, Hamish Bayne and Stephen Quigg.

Other tracks unique to this set are The Bonnie Banner Blue, a song by children from a Hawick primary school, Rob Bell’s The Flodden Ride, and, best of all, the penultimate track, The Ears Of The Wolf, in which Robin Laing depicts the fear and panic in nearby Edinburgh as the news of the slaughter flowed back – an eerie historical evocation that has at the same time a chilling contemporary relevance.

Previous Greentrax themed CDs have incorporated readings of related poetry. In this case, seven poems make up a bonus CD: lest this sounds short shrift, I should point out that one of them, Edinburgh After Flodden lasts 18½ minutes, a 19th century vision of the situation described by Robin Laing. The bonus CD is, perhaps, one to dip into on occasion; Disk One, however, is one you will return to regularly with pleasure. Like all these Greentrax sets, it’s a thoroughly rewarding and satisfying experience.

Nigel Schofield

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This album was reviewed in Issue 98 of The Living Tradition magazine.