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Kathleen MacInnes/Halton Quartet, Tolbooth, Stirling


St Andrew's Night at the Tolbooth brought together the artists responsible for two of this year's most impressive albums to come out of the Scottish tradition, and while their expected meeting at the end didn't materialise, their respective performances had lots to recommend them.

Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes wears her talent lightly, introducing songs that could break your heart with some of the scattiest repartee this side of Lucille Ball. Possibly as a result of her acting experience, she has a great ability to get inside the characters in her songs, not least the heroine of Gur Millis Morag, who is confronted by the lover she thought dead while nursing her new husband's child, and singing both alone and with Allan Henderson's beautifully judged keyboard accompaniments, she gave a strong sense of narrative that required no translation. Her singing of Tha Sneachd' air Druim Uachdair, the song that's charmed the BBC Folk Awards panel, was another superbly moving highlight in a set without a weakness.

The Halton Quartet's music may owe as much to jazz and bluegrass as it does to the group's Scottish roots but what makes this one of the joys of the current scene is the sheer melodiousness of their fiddle, mandolin, accordion and guitar adventures. There's reflectiveness in tunes for departed friends and mentors, but even these convey the sense of celebration and the spirit of dynamic, full-flavoured music-making that flows freely through the whirl of Balkeerie Lights and the genuinely heart-swelling Washington Square Park.

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