Published: 22/02/2014 10:26 - Updated: 22/01/2014 12:54

The Rough Guide To Scottish Music

Written byalbum review


Various artists


A COMPANION to the comprehensive guide book series, the Rough Guide albums offer the armchair traveller a chance to sample the sounds of a country or region without the inconvenience of actually travelling there.

Or, for the more adventurous, get a taster of what to listen out for on their travels.

This naturally means a bias towards indigenous or traditional music, or at least, in its nationally themed collections, something that feels uniquely of that country. So look in vain for Japanese heavy metal or Swedish techno on their respective collections, though bands which borrow such elements may still be worthy of inclusion.

So it is with this update of the Rough Guide’s take on Scottish music.

The tracks here may all make a nod towards the "folk" category, but that still leaves plenty of room for variety in what turns out to be a pretty good snapshot of the Scottish contemporary scene. That breadth is demonstrated by the way a tradition Gaelic singer like Kathleen MacInnes is sandwiched between indie-pop folksters Admiral Fallow and Carrbridge’s Rachel Sermanni making what is perhaps an inevitable inclusion from Robert Burns unique and personal.

Tradition may be the touchstone, but it is a tradition that is open to other influences, like the Scandinavian-Scots collaboration of Rona Wilkie and Marit Falk, the Americana roots of Salt House, The Campbells Of Greepe translating US gospel tune Down In The River To Pray into Gaelic as Sìos Dhan An Abhainn, and even a touch of klezmer in the music of The Chair.

For some, the collection might be slightly Gaelic heavy, especially given the bonus disc of a whole album from Cliar — together with Dumfries singer Emily Smith, the only act to cross over from the rather more obviously folkie 2008 edition of RGSM — and poor Shetland, with its distinct and healthy musical heritage, seems to have been by-passed completely.

Still, with established and up and coming names like Karine Polwart, Lau, Manran, Grantown’s Findlay Napier and The Bar Room Mountaineers and Anderson McGinty Webster Ward and Fisher (AMWWF), this is like having your own private festival on a single disc. As the saying goes, new listeners start here.


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