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Where Ravens Reel
Private Label ROWR01CD

My dear wife popped into the room ten minutes ago. She listened to a minute or so of this album and seemingly approved (though, it must be said, that folk music is not really her thing). Then she laid it on me: "Try and tell me the perfect place to play this CD?"

I thought for a moment - but only to perfect my wording - and responded as follows: "If I had a shop or a restaurant called Caledonia, situated outside Scotland, I would play this on a permanent loop, to give the place the necessary atmosphere and with it a verisimilitude and imprimatur. It just oozes authenticity and integrity." She seemed satisfied with my answer and exited the room.

But now, a few minutes later, it is me who is not happy with my answer. For what I failed to convey is the genuine pleasure that the album brings. Lots of CDs that are authentic and imbued with integrity, can also be unremittingly dull. Like ditchwater. Not so here. And how could it so be, with a duo like this one? These two have stayed at the top of the tree for a long time because they have character in spades and very special voices. They are joined briefly by Jo Miller on fiddle and Alison's daughter Kirsty Potts, who as you'd expect, achieves an easy harmony with her mother's ever-so-distinctive voice. (I often think that Alison is a Scots version of a Peta Webb or a Maddy Prior: that is to say, someone with a voice you can never confuse for someone else's.)

The nicely packaged alum contains 14 numbers which are essentially traditional or written by Geordie. He is in fine voice throughout: the highest praise I can give, is to say that there were times that I thought Ewan MacColl was still with us! Exactly the same timbre and phrasing.

The artistic high spots for me were several. I adored Geordie's singing of his song Tam Chambers and the Glasgow tenement world (and the need to escape it on one's bicycle) that he conjured up. And his touching song The Lights Of Home telling the moving wartime story of their friend Andy Coogan. Alison's plaintive banjo here, adds to the poignancy.

But the high water mark comes with Alison's divine singing of the traditional Burns And Highland Mary. Alison learned it from Lucy Stewart of Fetterangus. The notes say "It is believed to have [been] written around 1870, by a West of Scotland policeman called Thomson, who later emigrated to Canada".

Lucky Canada.

Dai Woosnam

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