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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Sounds Like Knockengorroch 2020 

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Sounds Like Knockengorroch 2020 
Private Label KNOCK2020CD 

Not every reader will be aware of the best-kept secret that is Knockengorroch, a kind of mini-WOMAD roots festival held annually since 1998 in a secluded valley in Carsphairn, Dumfries & Galloway. Inevitably, 2020 found the festival in an online incarnation, and this double CD celebrates the event by featuring artists who performed over that late-May weekend. Many of its 20 tracks are brand new post-event recordings, while others are pre-release cuts from bands on the projected 2021 festival line-up. Together they represent the enticing spectrum of folk and wider roots musics on offer at Knockengorroch, and each listener will doubtless pick out different personal highlights. For me, that category includes a spellbinding account of As I Roved Out by Kaela Rowan (currently with Shooglenifty, who also contribute a splendid selection from their recent Acid Croft Vol 9 album), also Ewan McLennan’s Roll On (specially written for the festival), Afro-Celt Sound System’s signature Lockdown Garroch Reel and the tracks by duo Anima, Welsh trio Ceitidh Mac, and the magnificent Poozies (their fun 2019 single, Fresh Blood), while Donald Hay and Mary Macmaster revisit their vibrant earlier success, Hook. Outwith the immediately folky radar, I also hugely enjoyed the blistering Rory Gallagher-style blues guitar and growling vocal of John Fairhurst and some swaysome skank from Mungos Hi Fi. Only Cera Impala’s small-scale “hillbilly noir” arguably loses a little in intimacy on the festival stage.

What matters is that Knockengorroch’s uniquely uplifting atmosphere and spirit of good-natured, relaxed eclecticism is brilliantly conjured on this release, which is sure to inspire listeners to investigate – and hopefully purchase – the artists’ available releases.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 137 of The Living Tradition magazine