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Folkwords – Curious Things Given Wings

The Outside Track – a consummate blend of skill, talent, flair and intensity. (February 10, 2010). ‘Blend’ is a much-over-employed word to describe music – often used to explain disparate elements brought together – just.  Then occasionally you find a combination of artists, styles, temperaments and music that fit the word perfectly. That is what you find on ‘Curious Things Given Wings’ the new album from The Outside Track – simply a consummate blend of skill, talent, flair and intensity.

The Outside Track entwines musical heritage and influences from Canada, Scotland and Ireland and Cape Breton to concoct a heady brew. Infusing new with old adds to the melange to create a force that folk music needs to inspire and energise even the most jaded ear. They musicians are each virtuosos of their chosen instruments and it shows through every note and word on this album. For those that don’t know, the Outside Track are Fiona Black (accordion) Alan Jordan (guitar) Cillian O’Dalaigh  (guitar, vocals, bodhran) Mairi Rankin (fiddle, stepdance, vocals) Norah Rendell (lead vocal, flute, whistle) and Ailie Robertson (harp).

There’s so much to enjoy on ‘Curious Things Given Wings’ that picking favourites implies there are some that are less than that – not so. This is simply one man’s view on the ‘best of the best’. This is a band that sources enduring elements from the folk tradition and melds their own inspired compositions with its legacy to create an album that is instantly ‘at home’ with ancient or modern. And damn fine music it is too. There are stirring instrumentals that shape traditional tunes with a fusion of accomplished writing from Ailie, Alan and Cillian to create gems such as ‘Swerving for Bunnies’, ‘The Jubilant Goat’, ‘Malcolm’s New Fiddle’ and ‘Panic!’  And then you have the joy of listening to Norah’s beautiful traditional folk voice deliver songs to make you weep and laugh – ‘The Turkish Revery’, ‘Caroline of Edinburgh Town’, ‘Blackbirds and Thrushes’ and ‘Farewell Song’ – every syllable a pure delight. And not forgetting the times when the band comes together in full flight through the joy of ‘Belladrum Outhouse’ or the insistent drive of ‘Madam Madam’.

When I first heard The Outside Track I called them a fine example of how young musicians can take ‘traditional’ folk music, ensure it continues to evolve and yet remain true to its roots. I’m pleased to say

I have no cause to revise that view.

The CD booklet has some great photographs, details on each track and it includes the lyrics. (Hurrah!) If you love music and song there’s nothing that completes the package so well as finding the lyrics. This is one of those albums that must be in your collection – miss this and you’ll miss the perfect blend.

David Kidman