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he knows and loves well, shows just why.
Many fiddle players these days can play slow
airs eloquently, and with a beautiful sound.
Duncan has all of this, but also the rarer gift of
being able to get right to the heart of a tune,
and communicate the emotion behind it in what
seems a totally natural way. His music (at any
pace) has an unforced flow, which draws the
listener in.
Slow airs take centre stage on Farrar, featuring
on six of the ten tracks. Duncan’s playing has
rightly been described as taking the listener
to places of great beauty and peace. Here
this pervading feeling is tinged with different
emotions on individual tunes, from the aching
poignancy of Gordon Duncan’s Lorient
Mornings to the tenderness of A’ Mhairead Og,
both featuring Phil Cunningham’s sensitive Janet’s response to The Lakes of Pontchartrain.
piano accompaniment. Wexford Lullaby, credited to John Renbourn
as well as the Irish tradition, is beautiful and
The remaining tunes, modern compositions by mystical. Waly, Waly Up The Bank is an
Duncan himself and the likes of Fred Morrison Edinburgh-based variant of The Water Is Wide.
and Michael McGoldrick, are mainly played at There is more lost love to endure in Nancy
a relaxed mid-tempo to complement the feeling Kerr’s Steely Water followed by Donal Og. The
established by the airs, with Kris Drever, Ross Sodjer’s Cairn is Janet’s wonderful setting
Hamilton and Martin O’Neill providing a suitably of Mary Symon’s poem lamenting the lads
subtle rhythmic backing. The recording (by sacrificed in Flanders. It’s the centrepiece of the
Brian McNeill) does them full justice while album, as it was the highlight of her last visit to
still letting us hear every nuance of Duncan’s my local club, and it made me cry – again.
playing.
Then there’s the fun. Janet’s reputation as a
Duncan has said that his aim in Farrar is to take writer of comic songs is enhanced with The
the listener to the mountain, and atmospheric Pigeon and the Sparra, which looks at global
photographs of it in the sleeve booklet certainly warming from an avian perspective. Do you
reinforce the mood he creates. But in the end fancy dancing Strip the Willow and the Dashing
it is the music, which speaks for itself, and it White Sergeant to medleys of Burns, diddling,
carries a quality and depth of feeling, which will music hall and much else? Janet’s the woman
keep listeners returning to it for many years. to see. The arrangements of the songs should
appeal to a broad constituency. Some are
Richard Brown unaccompanied, on others she plays guitar.
There are fine contributions from Najam Javed
JANET RuSSELL
on tablas, Tom McConville on fiddle, Steve
Tilston on guitar, and Gill Redmond on cello.
Love Songs and Fighting Talk

Harbourtown HARCD052
All of life is paraded in this rich, beautifully
wrought album. It’s the best of her three
 
solo albums, following her earlier work with
This is the best and most enjoyable CD from
Christine Kydd, and I hope it brings her to a
a female singer to come my way in many a
wider audience.
year. I admit to bias, since I well remember
 
Janet Russell in her younger days as a shining
Tony Hendry
presence around the London folk clubs. I loved
 
her singing then as now. I compared her voice
with Joni Mitchell’s in its range, its swoops
MARY MCPARTLAN
and soarings, and its bursts from sweetness to
strength. Joni lost.
Petticoat Loose
Mac Productions MCPRCD002
Janet, of course, is no Londoner but a proud
Scot. The 15 songs on this 58-minute album Managing the transition from a successful first
keep close to the Scottish tradition, with album to a second one isn’t easy. Performers,
excursions to Ireland and England. It’s no seasoned ones included, sometimes don’t
surprise that this Sister Unlimited gives us get it right, some even falling by the wayside.
strong heroines. Pretty Polly rescues her Fortunately, this hasn’t happened to Mary
lover from the battlefield. Mary Ambree is McPartlan, for her new CD Petticoat Loose
another successful warrior. Eppie Morrie fights is simply splendid, and a step-up from its
triumphantly against forced marriage. Mistress predecessor The Holland Handkerchief - which
Jean, in the Collier’s Laddie, rejects the rich was impressive enough...
man’s advances with the classic line “Love for
love is the bargain for me”. Mary, in the Banks So why is this CD so good? Well, just
of Sweet Dundee, kills in self-defence. In Matt mentioning here some highs from the thirteen
Hyland, Janet boldly changes him to her. It tracks should give an answer. Mary’s voice
becomes, in Janet’s words, a song of sexual is so versatile for a start. It’s very personal,
mismatch (as some might have seen it) rather opening with Vincent Woods’ song Sanctuary,
than social mismatch. celebrating her home place with its good and
bad sides. Her voice echoes the old and the
Women’s capacity for love and tenderness is newer Ireland too, as in Cúmha, (a Parting
always apparent. The Creole Girl’s Lament is Sorrow) where lyricist Pádraig Ó hAoláin and
The Living Tradition - Page 0 Sponsored by BIrnam CD
Issue80.indd 40 14/7/08 14:54:29
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