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Greentrax CDTRAX359

A lot of reviewers seem to think that second albums are expected in some way to be “difficult” for bands, but I feel that to be a bit insulting, as it can suggest that the first was just a flash in the pan.  To be fair, this lot set themselves a fair old challenge with their first CD, Between Two Worlds – how to improve on that was going to be a big ask.

Well, the secret, as illustrated here, is build on what you’ve got, but don’t throw away the good stuff in the process.  The band consists of Paul McKenna, vocals, guitar, bouzouki; David McNee, bouzouki, tenor guitar, backing vocals; Ruairidh Macmillan, fiddle, octave fiddle; Sean Gray, flute, whistle, guitar, backing vocal; and Ewan Baird, bodhran, cajon, percussion.  Connor McCaffrey adds tenor banjo as an excellent guest musician, and the overall effect is of a group who understand their music perfectly and feed off each other to bring a freshness and flair to their arrangements.  Honestly, if anyone could bottle the sparkle in this playing, the Champagne producers would go out of business.

Perhaps the biggest difference from the first album is an increased self-confidence and assurance (as if they were needed).  There’s a further polish to Paul’s songwriting, with Brian McNeill’s influences showing through, and his voice is already one of the more immediately recognizable on the scene.  The musicianship throughout simply belies the age of the players, and it’s grand to hear some of their own compositions coming to the fore. They have also developed their knack of putting old words to new tunes, allowing both to complement each other splendidly.

This is a band who are already making huge strides forward, and whose potential is limitless.  Yes, they really are that good, and they deserve their success.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 89 of The Living Tradition magazine.