various artists,
Scotland: The Music & the Song
(Greentrax, 2006)

Where did that fable originate that the Scots are mean? The people at Greentrax are anything but stingy, especially with this album. For less than the price of most pop albums, you can get a triple CD in a wonderful gatefold cover plus an insert book of song and singer backgrounds. The reason for this generosity is that the label celebrates 20 years of bringing us the best of Scottish -- and other music -- this year.

They have been able to select tracks from more than 300 albums and give us 56 tracks of pure unadulterated music magic. The tracks range from the well known to the new, from traditional to progressive, reminding us of the diversity of the folk music canon and the huge catalogue of Greentrax.

The CDs are labeled "Music & Song" Nos. 1 and 2 and "20 Years at the Cutting Edge."

The first disc concentrates on the first decade of the label and brings us tracks from Robin Laing, the McCalmans, Eric Bogle and Heather Heywood, among many more. I was bowled over by the wonderful track offered by Heywood called "Some Kind of Love." An excellent offering from the McCalmans is their version of "Mothers, Daughters, Wives," one of the most powerfully quiet anti-war songs on the go today.

The other "Music & Song" disc concentrates on the second decade of Greentrax and features Dick Gaughan, Jean Redpath and the wonderfully named Deaf Shepherd. Jim Reid gives his all on "Freedom Come All Ye," while Sheena Wellington closes the disc with "A Man's a Man," another standard.

As you might expect, the "Cutting Edge" disc is a bit more upbeat and experimental. The majority of the tracks from artists like Skyedance, Fiddler's Bid and the Scottish Power Pipe Band are instrumental, and with titles like "The Pumping Bass Set" and "Out of His Three Set," they might frighten some purists away. Do not be afraid, this is the future of traditional music. These players have an obvious love of the tradition, but many of them are playing it in a way that will endear it to audiences who would not be caught dead listening to folk music. I found the ideal way to enjoy this disc is to put it on, turn up the volume and allow yourself to get lost in the sound. There is a live performance atmosphere even on tracks that are not actually live.

This release is a wonderful introduction to the very best of Scottish music. It is a great souvenir of a magnificent label. It is an audio catalogue of their output and in some ways a historical release that will probably become a collectors' item. Most of all, it is a great listen.

by Nicky Rossiter
11 November 2006