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Claytara Records CLCD1301

OK, first things first. I love Mick West. As far as I am concerned he is one of the finest traditional Scottish vocalists to be found. He can sing anything and I would listen to him all day and not grow tired. End of story.

So the thought of this CD excited me. Here, Mick teams up with five-piece a cappella group, Muldoon’s Picnic, to create an album of traditional Scottish chorus songs, specially arranged for group singing. With the belief that a good chorus song can help singers to engage with the material and also grow in confidence, and in co-operation with the National Centre for Excellence in Traditional Music in Plockton, a project was born.

Accompanied on some songs by expert arrangers Frank McLaughlin, Stewart Hardy, Angus Lyon and Penny Callow, Mick and Muldoon’s Picnic sing 15 very well known traditional songs along with one written by Steven Clarke. Mick takes the lead in the songs with the Picnic providing chorale-style harmonies and adding other bits of vocal arrangements.

At times it just sounds slightly too polite and clean for me – it is like listening to a hybrid of a singaround and a choir from mass! I am not used to hearing these songs so perfectly arranged. But I guess that is the point. These arrangements have been designed so that other groups can take them and use them, and the whole package (with lyrics and music for each harmony line) is available from the Plockton people. As a resource, it is excellent.

And I can’t resist a good chorus song - I found myself singing my wee heart out to Tatties And Herrin, Bonnie Glenshee and In Freenships Name. There is a dark, almost haunting version of I’ll Lay Ye Doon Love and a slowed-down and surprisingly good version of Mary Mack.

And did I mention Mick West was in it? As I said, end of story!

Fiona Heywood

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