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The Arms Dealer's Daughter SHOOGLENIFTY
The Arms Dealer's Daughter
Shoogle Records 03 001

Fifth album from Scotland's folkadelic acid-crofters is the first on their own label and new boys Quee Macarthur (bass) and Luke Plumb (mandolin, tenor banjo, bouzouki) replace the outgoing Conrad Ivitsky and Iain Macleod. Plumb effortlessly steps into Macleod's writing shoes, contributing half the album's tunes which - as ever - are original in all senses of the word, their quirky titles commemorating the band's collective life experiences in impressionistic sound-stories.

Quee's prowess with recording software also comes in handy. Regular producer Jim Sutherland has served them well in the past but they prove more than able to fly themselves in the studio (aka the round wooden lighthouse room in drummer James Mackintosh's flat). There's still plenty of programming and found sounds but it's more melodic and integrated, less in-your-face than the narcotic mayhem of 2000's Solar Shears.

To the Shoogles, dance is all. Live, they like to be able to see their audience to share the experience. But after grooving, listen closely to the bodacious range of influences and the inventive experimentation: you'll find Celtic nods and Oriental winks, coronary-inducing polkas and trippy beats, delicate mandolin and twangy slide guitar, global percussion and drumming from the dark side. Garry Finlayson's kora-influenced banjo on Nordal Rumba (a sort of Scottish/Spanish/high-life bop featuring Salsa Celtica's brass section) is a delight as is the title track set, which belly-dances to centre stage and does a reel in the moshpit before exiting left with a bouncer. And amid the polyrhythmic rumpus, beautiful slow tunes like Carboni's Farewell (intro: the gods play bowls with The Eagles in Valhalla) and the closing Tune For Bartley, a brain-embedding string-driven slow march into space, building into an orgasmic uilleann pipes climax courtesy of a passing Michael McGoldrick. Brilliant, brilliant. Go and buy it.

Mel McClellan - July 2003

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An impeccable selection of the best in folk, roots and acoustic music.
Mike Harding
BBCi Music

Celtic Roots - BBC Scotland

Celtic Heartbeat - BBC Wales

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