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Compass 4454

Next year, The Tannahills will celebrate forty years of existence as a band. Understandably, there have been several line up changes in that time, but their commitment to music which is both rooted and rousing had remained constant.  This new album represents both sides of the band and sets the mood for what one hopes will be a celebratory ruby anniversary. The first set of seven songs and tunes was recorded during the Tannahills’ US tour in 2005. It’s a representative, career-spanning selection. Particularly fine is the lament Farewell To Funaray, from their eponymous 1979 album, delivered with stately rich vocal harmonies. Featuring tracks like Tranent Muir, The Athol Gathering and When The Kye Come Hame it takes you back to your early encounters with the band. What is astounding is that in every case the performances here are even better than the originals.

The second half of the set is effectively a new studio album. Its seven tracks were recorded in 2006. The CD ends with a condensed version of the Big ballad The Cruel Brother aka Down By The Greenwood Sidey-o; set against a floating complex rhythm, it has an eeriness perfectly suited to the tale.  In contrast to that ancient saga of blood-thirsty mayhem, the second half opens with a sensitive, gorgeously-arranged take on a modern folk-song, Archie Fisher’s Dark-Eyed Molly. It is the first of a series of remarkably sensitive readings: Dumbarton’s Drums is of course a woman’s song – even if this wasn’t a great version, it would merit inclusion for the band’s sleevenotes alone; The Soldier’s Return is a fine setting of one of Burns’ most affecting songs; instrumentally, there is the band’s magnificent Leaving Ireland set. This CD stands as a testament to the compelling and masterful sound of a band who forty years on retain both the freshness and command which first attracted us to their playing

Nigel Schofield

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This album was reviewed in Issue 75 of The Living Tradition magazine.