A Whisky Kiss
(Greentrax, 1996)

Shooglenifty's sophomore effort, A Whisky Kiss, retains the Celtic traditional/jazz improvisational blend that made Venus in Tweeds such a treat. If anything, the band has matured its sound and put together an album that sounds even more like an impromptu cross-style jam.

The band's lineup remains the same as before, with a few minor instrumental additions: Angus R. Grant on fiddle, Iain M. MacLeod on mandolin and tenor banjo, Garry Finlayson on banjo and banjax, Malcolm Crosbie on acoustic and electric guitars, Conrad Ivitsky on bass and James MacKintosh on piano, percussion and drums.

Each gets a turn at the forefront, and each boasts a crisp performance style that would keep any smoke-filled pub session going strong. But that's not to say there aren't a few standouts. Grant's fiddling on "She's in the Attic/Hey Goat" (both Grant originals) is particularly strong, both during the fast-paced reel and slower, lyrical air. Another highlight is the Finlayson composition, "A Song for Susie," which features Finlayson's banjo over a strolling Ivitsky bass line. There are some brief, but lovely cameos from the fiddle and mandolin in this one, too.

The lively title track, by MacLeod, is easily the best tune on the album, and it uses the whole ensemble to its greatest advantage. The vigorous sets "Good Drying" ("Flick It Up and Catch It/The Creepy Zone/Good Drying") and "The Price of a Pig" ("The Price of a Pig/Crabbit Shona/Bancroft's Descent") should also satisfy any craving for good session music.

While still as energetic as before, Shooglenifty has learned to relax a little, too, as demonstrated with the mellow "Hoptson" and the ponderous fiddle and bass showpiece "Farewell to Nigg."

In my estimation, Shooglenifty is overdue for a new release, and I'm eager to see where they go next. For some reason, I'm curious to hear how they'd sound with a sax or trombone in the mix....

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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