(Greentrax, 2003)

Shoormal comes from the Shetland dialect and means "where the shore meets the sea." With this CD it also means where great Scottish music meets the wider world. In just 12 tracks this rather large group -- I count eight in the cover picture -- does a great service for a living tradition. No, it is not an album of traditional songs and tunes. This CD is packed with new songs that show us how tradition lives. Every song in the folk and traditional canon was once a new composition and here we get a clutch of pieces that in 50 years could well be popular "traditional," too. I say that as a compliment to the composers and to the future singers who will have the good taste to keep singing these songs.

"Angel Whispers" opens the CD and is a fascinating piece. It combines sentiments from the gospels with a lovely take on a newborn child -- the composer's grandchild, in this instance. My favourite track has to be the beautiful "Walking in the Mist." Along with the music there is the poignant, simple set of lyrics: "I'll tread carefully not catching your dreams, a million moments come and gone."

Social and maritime history combine on the wonderful song with the odd name, "Bohus." This was the name of a ship that ran aground in 1924. The use of authentic dialect makes it all the more interesting -- if difficult to understand at times. Apparently it is based on eyewitness accounts.

How often has a person who has lost in love thought the words of Joyce McDill -- "Please don't walk where we walked, with her" -- in her song "Emigrant"? It's lyrics like these, expressing the deepest thoughts of real people, that mark out this band. We feel the loss as we listen and what more can anyone want from music.

There is a deeply spiritual feel to this CD without getting too intrusive. Maybe it is the fact that they are closer to nature than most us being lucky to come, in the most part, from that re-energizing region of Shetland.

This is the group's first release on Greentrax, but they had an earlier outing on their own label. I can guarantee that I will be on the lookout for that and look forward to their future releases.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 15 November 2003