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Brechin All Records CDBAR006

Three big names and an even bigger sound.  Bruce MacGregor of Blazing Fiddles and Brian O hEadhra of Anam are held together by Sandy Brechin from Planet Box.  Great tunes, powerful arrangements, and five lovely Gaelic songs: Sonas harks back to the golden days of Ossian and Silly Wizard, with contemporary drive and bite.  I always look for variety on an album, and this trio provide more than their fair share with old tunes such as Captain Donald Stewart and Chorus Jig, classic airs like Sitting in the Stern of a Boat, several modern compositions including a couple of Sandy's own, and those five songs.  All three musicians are masters of their art, needing only the tiniest touch of support from guest Fiona Mackenzie.  Sonas came just too late for my 2008 Top 10, but I'm already sure it will make the 2009 list.

The medley starting with John Roy Stewart is a fine example of exciting traditional music.  The fiddle strathspey flows into a piece of mouth music from Brian, before the final reel sees box and fiddle united over Brian's guitar. Sandy and Bruce play complementary harmonies, and Brian's guitar floats slightly lower in the mix as befits a backing instrument.  On some of the vocal tracks, the guitar takes centre stage for a bit of tasty picking while box and fiddle hold back.  Full marks for the mixing throughout this recording.

There are plenty of crowd-pleasers here.  Goat Island Reel is followed by a pair of great Gordon Duncan reels, Zito the Bubbleman and The 4th Floor, for an unrestrained romp.  Sandy's candid reel Sometimes It Doesn't Work is paired with Alasdair Fraser's rollicking Skye Barbecue.  A gentler side comes through in the air Sitting in the Stern of a Boat, and in two striking waltz tracks.  All the songs are gentle enough, including two of Brian's own, both soft and lyrical: Mo Chaileag Bhon Eilean in the Hebridean style, and his version of Born Free.  There isn't a bad track on Sonas, and most of them are excellent. I could have done with a big brash final set of dance tunes, but that's just my inner teenager.

Alex Monaghan
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This album was reviewed in Issue 82 of The Living Tradition magazine.