Rough Guide to Scottish Folk
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A celebration of song and dance from one of Europe's strongest living folk traditions, featuring poignant Gaelic laments, the beauty of the Scottish harp, jigs and reels from the finest contemporary folk bands, and a rousing finale from the 'King of Highland Pipers'.
Artists include: Silly Wizard, Mac-Talla, Capercaillie, The Tannahill Weavers, Ewan Maccoll, Tom Anderson with Aly Bain, Karen Matheson and Alasdair Fraser
There's far more to Scottish folk than the skirl of bagpipes (although that's a part of it, and excellently represented here by John D. Burgess). Fiddle features prominently, as does song, and the ceilidh dance tradition (Tom Anderson and Aly Bain offer a stunning ceilidh set). Gaelic was the native language, and it's never died out, as a number of singers here show. Up in the Isles, it's the tradition of mouth music that lives on, and Capercaillie's Karen Matheson offers a modern version of one of those puirt-a-beul songs. Reels and jigs are also as much a part of the country as the heather, and they're here in force. But the south of Scotland has long been urban, and Ewan MacColl's "Dirty Old Town" is something of a grimy hymn to that modernity. For an introduction to music strongly influenced by the tradition, this is honestly hard to beat. --Chris Nickson
Top customer reviews
The samples are really representative of what the album sounds like (unlike some albums where there's a complete disconnect) so if you enjoy the samples, you're really likely to enjoy the CD.
It's not something I listen to all the time, but when I pull it out, it takes me right back to my favorite trip to Scotland which is such a treat, especially on a rainy Saturday.
There is a lot of variety packed into this 70-some minute CD; if you think Scottish music means bagpipes and more bagpipes, you know even less about it than I do. Certainly, you'll get a little bagpipe music here, but you'll also hear some fantastic guitar, fiddle, harp, pipes, whistles, and a lot of other instruments I can hardly pronounce, let alone describe adequately.
I was familiar with the name, if not the music, of one featured artist: Capercaillie, one of the most prominent Gaelic bands out there; not only is the group represented here with The Tree, their famed singer Karen Matheson contributes an impressive Gaelic tune called Rithill Aill. This brings up an obvious point: you will hear a lot more Gaelic than English vocals on this album; Gaelic truly is a more beautiful, musically emotive language; the drawback, of course, is that few of us understand any of the words. By my count, only three of these tunes feature English vocals. Silly Wizard leads the way in the English vocals department, as far as I'm concerned, with a live recording of The Queen of Argyll, my favorite track on the album. Wolfstone isn't far behind them, though, imparting a wonderfully full and busy sound to their track Heart and Soul. Then there is Dirty Old Town by the late Ewan MacColl, one of the most important and influential figures in the preservation and perpetuation of British folk music.
Mac-Talla delivers arguably the most poignant song on the album with Griogal Cridhe, a Gaelic lament and lullaby dating all the way back to 1570 (yes, 1570). Mac-Talla's Christine Primrose also offers a beautiful Gaelic song of her own, Tha M'Eudail Is M'Aighear 'S Mo Grandh (a song which probably dates back to the 18th century). Then there's the much more energetic 'S Gann Gunn Dirich Mi Chaoidh from folk revival band Ossian.
All of the remaining tracks, if I'm not mistaken, are instrumentals. I'm not a big fan of instrumentals, but there are some really impressive ones on this album, ranging from the evocative to the frenetic. You've got the haunting pipes of Rory Campbell & Malcolm Stitt, an unusually pleasing waltz from Fiddlers Five, harp-playing at its finest from Alison Kinnaird on The Crags of Ailsa/Staffa's Shore, fiddle mastery at the hands of Jonny Hardie & Gavin Marwick, and amazing reels from the likes of Tannahill Weavers, Ross Kennedy & Archie McAllister, and Aly Bain and his former teacher Tom Anderson. Whirligig blends the traditional and the modern in fine fashion with The Harper/Lady Catherine Ogle, and John D. Burgess, the "King of Highland Pipers," closes out the album with the incomparable bagpipe strains of The Swallow-Tailed Coat/Turf Lodge.
This CD represents only a tiny dip in the immense pool of Scottish music, but it definitely does do a wonderful job showcasing the variety and unique sounds of a land where music seems to be a vital if not essential part of life.
Again, this is a great way to start a collection of Scottish folk music, or explore new territories. It is also an exceptional value... with approximately 70 minutes of recording time.