In an all-new second edition focusing on the music of Scotland, Pete Heywood compiled a set of completely contemporary tracks, some by established artists like the Battlefield Band and many by a new generation who have embraced the music's older traditions after having been raised on 20th century pop/rock, blues, and jazz. One thing binds them together: No matter how contemporary some of these artists are, their musical sensibilities are rooted in the past. Instrumentation may be such that Emily Smith uses a piano alongside the fiddle on the centuries-old "Fair Helen of Kirconnel," with a new melody she composed. Elsewhere, the internationally renowned Capercaillie juxtapose the Uillean pipes with the bagpipes, synthesizers, electronic percussion, and a melody from the 17th century. It's haunting in Karen Matheson's gorgeous alto and floats rather than stomps across the listener's sound palette. Jack Beck from the kingdom of Fife (like Jackie Leven) sings a ballad in both his native tongue and in the King's English, accompanied by whistles and his guitar playing. Christine Primrose is a native Gaelic speaker and is steeped in both tradition and culture. Though she is a young woman, the music she sings comes from the Scotland of her ancestors. Likewise, the Boys of the Lough turn their medley of "Brother Gildas" and "Calliope House" into a rollicking journey through the ages and musical evolution. Nothing on this collection is more moving than the medley performed by Pipe Sergeant Gordon J. Walker on Gaelic air and hornpipes. From droning balladry to lively jigs to reels, he invests a maximum of emotion from the Pentland Firth -- one of the most dangerous areas of the world in winter -- and extracts the muse's own song in his readings of these timeless songs. This set with its contemporary bent may be tough for followers of strict tradition to swallow -- though there's plenty of that here -- but in all it is stronger and more vibrant than the first edition, and a welcome addition to any library of world music.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek