Give Way,
Full Steam Ahead
(Greentrax, 2003)

Give way, yield right of way and make way for this fantastic family group!

From the gentle opening developing into a spirited tune on track one ("Manonymous") of this album, I defy anyone not to be enthralled by this group. Who else would mispronounce anonymous and then admit their error and use the word as an opening title on a debut album?

Made up of four sisters -- Kirtsy, Fiona, Mairi and Amy -- with an array of instruments from fiddles and whistles to accordions, drums, keyboards and synthesisers, this is the sound of Scottish folk in the third millennium. Aged from 13 to 17 years, they have a sound far in advance of their years.

The title track, "Full Steam Ahead," gives a final lie to the old adage that a gentleman (or lady) is one who can play the accordion, but doesn't. Kirtsy will boil your blood with her playing on this track. I dare you not to tap your foot as she wrings magic from her instrument, ably assisted by her sisters. This is joyous music. This is what music needs to be.

To prove that spirited is not their only mode, they then present the old traditional "Blue Bonnets (Over the Border)" and show us how drums can greatly enhance even the gentlest tunes in the hands of those with an obvious love of the music.

The track "Riverdance" is not the worldwide Irish phenomenon, but a medley of reels. "Jigging" is unusual in that the set opens with a very slow piece but soon takes off to have anyone with a dram of Celtic blood hopping and "lepping" around the room.

Amid the traditional and contemporary compositions there are three by 17-year-old Fiona. One of these is "Glencoe Beginnings," a beautiful and mature composition recounting how an aunt of the girls lost some of her school friends in a storm. It prevented her from taking part in outdoor activities but when she relearned the joy of such pursuits she met her future husband. Keeping it in the family, a poem by the girls' grandmother is spoken on the track.

This CD has just about all anyone could ask of it. The music is fabulous. The notes are informative -- and funny without the usual self-importance of sleeve notes. Treat yourself to a bit of modern Scotland with more than a hint of tradition and a palpable love of what is being performed. Watch out for this group -- they won't give way.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 26 July 2003

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