Sounding like a text speak acronym TMSA is The Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland. Formed in 1966 it exists to promote Scotland's musical traditions, each year it offers young musicians the opportunity to record and tour together. Featuring the winner and finalists of the 2018 BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the year Awards this is the TMSA's latest offering and it's a stepping on point if like me you were unfamiliar with the initiative.
This light, lively and vital album is nowhere near as worthy as those acronyms and award titles make it sound. It's like a Trad Folk supergroup with a snappy initials moniker. A shared vision, superb ensemble sound and a lightness of touch makes it more Blind Faith or Traffic in spirit than ELP. Hannah Rarity is a wonderfully considered Scottish vocalist and her singing of "Tae The Beggin'" with Amy Papiransky is spot on with sympathetic backing from the band, especially Alexander Levack's whistles and Charlie Stewart's fiddle. "The Magician" is a surprising delight, with Rory Matheson's trills and runs up and down the piano owing more to Oscar Peterson than Scottish traditional music. There is, definite jazz spring to this frenetic and nimble fingered dance tune. "Sunnyside" is a bright uplifting song, led and written by Amy ably supported by the fine guitar of Luc McNally. "Woodlands Dance" is a shimmering masterpiece as nuanced and subtle as the best of the great Davy Spillane. The drone notes and flute like cadence of the Whistles and pipes carries a slight wiff of the Himalayan foothills too. "Strong Women Rule Us All" by Brian McNeil is a fine ballad, delivered with power and sensitivity by Hannah in soulful mode.
"Jablo's Set" features Charlie's fiddle being put through its paces on two tunes. Findlay Napier's "The Rothes Colliery" is a fine band performance with delightful vocal harmonies and smooth light as air playing. David Sheddon's intense Bagpipe playing, that I have previously enjoyed in the fine Assynt, blazes through "Picnic In The Sky", packed full of notes it brings the album to an intense close.
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