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Private Label STARAN01CD 

Staran is a coming-together of four musicians and a singer, all of them fairly young, but with a wealth of experience and expertise. Featuring Kim Carnie (vocals), John Lowrie (piano / harmonium), Jack Smedley (fiddle), Innes White (guitars / mandolin) and James Lindsay (bass), this, their first album, demonstrates a level of ability that bodes well for the future.

The material draws from the Scots tradition as well as more contemporary sources, and their musical maturity, coupled with some sophisticated mastering, results in a smooth and seamless recording that is pleasant to listen to. At times, I was reminded of the much-lamented Relativity (particularly in the piano work), and even caught echoes of the Bully Wee Band. In other words, there’s plenty of evidence of several decades of the lively development of Celtic music.

For me, Kim Carnie’s vocals were the most intriguing element in the mix. With a breathy voice capable of doing equal justice to traditional Scots songs or to the bluesy final track, Settle, Honey, her versatility gave at least an inkling of possible future routes for the band’s development.

The only thing the album lacks is character - guts, if you like. Perhaps it’s the slick production techniques, or maybe the triumph of musical dexterity over musical expression; after all, the album has been created during lockdown, with all the challenges that implies. It would be interesting to hear them play live.

John Waltham


This review appeared in Issue 140 of The Living Tradition magazine