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Ross Kennedy, Scottish Voice and Acoustic Guitar (Greentrax CDTRAX317)
Despite an association with folk music stretching back over twenty-five years, this is Ross Kennedy's first solo effort. Kennedy is accompanied here by some fine supporting musicians; Lorne MacDougall on whistles and highland pipes, Alison Smith on fiddle, and Steve Lawrence playing bouzouki and percussion.
It is Kennedy's sterling guitar playing that provides the stand-out moments, bursting with detail on some complex ornamentation, beautifully enhancing the melodies; witness for example the opening flourish of "Whaur Will We Gang" or the instrumental "Acoustic Reels" in its entirety. Kennedy also exhibits his song-writing skills on a couple of tracks, with the beautiful "Farewell To Glasgow" being particularly worthy of mention.
Kennedy sings in a beguiling Scottish brogue, with a voice that offers both strength and warmth, though the end result often depends on the setting; for example, "The Earl o' Moray," is performed a cappella and suffers somewhat for the lack of instrumental support. Kennedy's voice, whilst boasting its own ample charms, lacks the bite and passion that might be delivered by the likes of Dick Gaughan on a similar arrangement. Contrast this with the track that follows, "The Birken Tree," that gathers pace with Kennedy's driving, rhythmic guitar and powerful vocals, before reaching an exhilarating climax with a reel played on the highland pipes; this works really well.
This is a creditable debut from Kennedy, indeed you will struggle to find better traditional guitar playing elsewhere; ably accompanied by some equally talented musicians that contribute much to the overall mood, it makes for a most pleasurable listen.