Various Artists

Scotland: The Real Music from Contemporary Caledonia

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Assembled by Fiona Ritchie of NPR's The Thistle and Shamrock, the Scotland: The Real Music From Contemporary Caledonia collection simply oozes class. In part it's the selection of artists, most of whom have years of proven talent behind them. But it's also the material. It's remarkable stuff, not merely the traditional tunes, but also the contemporary ones. None, however, is better than "Thaney," by Malinky, a ballad that sounds as if it should have the dust of ages on it, direct, powerful, and with the drone that characterizes so much Celtic music. Dougie Maclean is his usual excellent self, as is the rawer Dick Gaughan with his excoriating "No Gods and Precious Few Heroes." Inevitably, Robert Burns has a look-in, as well he should, when Chantan perform "Slave's Lament," one of his many excellent songs. There's simply not a bad, or even mediocre, track here. Catherine-Ann MacPhee floats in Gaelic over the harp, the Wrigley Sisters from the northerly Orkneys, and Tony Cuffe plays exquisite guitar. And, to illustrate the Scots sense of humor, Adam McNaughton contributes "Oor Hamlet," retelling the Bard's play in hilarious fashion in three minutes. A wonderful way to experience Scotland.

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