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Private Label  LOFCD001

Now here's an intriguing notion. Take a story from modern history, in this case involving Shetlanders and Norwegians during World War II, and set it to music in the traditional styles of Scotland and Scandinavia. The Reid sisters have done a splendid job of composing a dozen pieces to accompany the story of Jan Baalsrud, a resistance fighter trained in Scotland and returned to Norway by the famous Shetland Bus on a disastrous mission to sabotage Nazi war efforts.

Jan's story is chilling and dramatic, told in a Shetland brogue by Phil Goodlad. Skip the rest of this paragraph if you don't want to know what happens. To summarise, Jan is the only survivor of a boatload of Norwegians running guns from Shetland to the resistance: their contact has disappeared, and they are betrayed to the Germans. Jan escapes into the frozen hills of Western Norway, survives frostbite and avalanches, encounters friends and foes along the way, and is eventually stretchered across to neutral Sweden. Jan Baalsrud became a national hero in Norway, and the Shetland Bus is perhaps better remembered in that country than in Scotland.

The narration takes perhaps ten per cent of this recording, generally towards the beginning of each track (although this isn't always the case), over muted instrumentals. By far the majority of this CD is devoted to the work of Jenna and Bethany. Musically, Escape presents a range of moods - the gentle progress of Brattholm, the excitement and terror of Firefight, utter despair in At The Summit and Desolation, exhilaration in Jan's Return. Jenna Reid's familiar fiddle leads most tracks, with Bethany switching between fiddle and piano. Friends provide perfect backing on bass and percussion, while James Thomson's flute and pipes are very welcome additions to the melody at several points. The whole project is a fascinating one, and the result is entertaining and informative. Highly recommended for anyone with a taste for Shetland traditions, modern history, or just a good yarn: Escape is widely available, and is also featured online at

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 87 of The Living Tradition magazine.