Gillian Frame &
Back of the Moon,
Gillian Frame &
Back of the Moon

(Foot Stompin', 2001)

Scots fiddle player and singer Gillian Frame headlines the CD that includes band members Simon McKerrell and the brothers Hamish and Findlay Napier. A tribute to this young player from Arran is the fact that she is the inaugural winner of the Young Scottish Traditional Musician 2001 award. Her singing and fiddling are the front work of this CD and she gives a solid performance. Featured also are the pipes, an acquired taste for some, with inspired playing from Simon McKerrell who is aggressive in his expression of traditional fare. Enriching the tunes and vocals, and certainly not taking a back seat, are Hamish's piano playing and Findlay's guitar.

Though composed mainly of traditional music, there are two full-bodied original compositions by band members on the CD -- one each by Gillian and Hamish. Most arrangements are done by the band members and the result is a fresh sound on the instrumentals and a deep romantic quality to the singing, except for the "Greenland Whale Fishery," which is full-bodied north Atlantic humour.

Even though the musicianship is definitely above average, the vocal tracks won me over. The songs and voices are rich, mellifluous and brimming with tradition. Romantic Scottish ballads, old Gaelic verse and a whaling song on six of the twelve tracks deserve special mention. I really enjoyed Gillian on the ballads, seemingly effortless, clear and smooth.

There's a lot to be said for the efforts of Gillian and the band on this album and most of it good. It did take me a few takes to appreciate the sound of the pipes. The high pitch is not a favorite, but the arrangements have it nicely tempered with guitar and fiddle.

For own taste, I'd enjoy a CD of total vocals from this bunch, with or without instruments. From what they've shown on this CD, their entertainment value lies in terrific presentations of well chosen traditional songs. Let's hope there's more on the way.

[ by Virginia MacIsaac ]
Rambles: 9 March 2002