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SGOIL CHI┘IL NA G└IDHEALTACHD - Last Band Standing

SGOIL CHI┘IL NA G└IDHEALTACHD - Last Band Standing
Private Label SCGCD012D

On a full double CD, the prodigious students of Plockton's school for traditional music have poured out their tunes and songs, talent and soul. It's a bit of an uneven ride, from single-track island vocals to the rugged rock of highland hoolies, but this two-hour trip through Scotland's maturing musical landscape is both enlightening and exciting. Those who claim that Scottish music has a bright future are certainly vindicated by this collection. The first disc seems to be devoted to the final year students, musicians just old enough to drive to gigs, who will be gracing colleges and conservatoires next year. A good mix of instrumentals, Gaelic and Scots song: there are several stand-out performances, including Conal McDonagh on pipes and whistles, Kenny Rankin on gravelly vocals, Sally Simpson and Crisdean MacDonald with a fiddle and accordion duet on Snoring Khazi. There are a few budding tunesmiths among the sixth-formers too, but mostly they stick to proven traditional material ancient and modern.

Disc two adds the considerable skills of younger students, with some large ensemble pieces which kick serious kilt-pleats. Conal is joined by Conall (no relation) on double highland pipes, while Mairi Hawthorn provides stunning Gaelic vocals for a wee lassie. Ellie Boyd delivers a worryingly knowing version of What Can A Young Lassie Do Wi' An Auld Man which has entirely changed my view of her native Oban. Flutes, fiddles and accordions attack some seriously challenging tunes by McGoldrick, McKerron, Morrison and the surprising choice of Tim Edey, with unwavering success. There's a powerful rendition of An Ataireachd Ard, one of my favourite songs, by young treble Robert MacInnes who could be the next Aled Jones, and some lovely arrangements by the quintet Just the Four of Us - I'm guessing they don't have much time for maths lessons in Plockton. A couple of Burns ballads, an obscure Phil Cunningham composition, a final Gaelic song, and the big finish: by that man Tim Edey again! His beautiful air Little Bird ends an epic journey which combines depth, breadth, tradition and innovation.

Alex Monaghan

 

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This album was reviewed in Issue 95 of The Living Tradition magazine.