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July 31 - August 7, 1997

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*** Various Artists



The theory behind this compilation of new Scottish folk rock is that the genre has come of age -- that it has remained a music of integrity and power even as it incorporates rock and dance pop with its more traditional elements. There's good evidence here. Paul Mounsey's "Passing Away" laces a hip-hop groove with Scottish voices and instrumental textures in a dark mix that contemplates the decline of Gaelic culture even as it seeks to revive it. Burach's "Half Way Round/Walking the Line" approaches thrash-rock intensity while remaining essentially acoustic music. And Bongshang's "If and When" brings to mind Iggy Pop with a banjo. Some adventurous tracks go in a more psychedelic, ambient trance direction, but they keep the rhythms bubbling. One popular theme on Folk 'N Hell is the drabness of life in Scotland for those who don't, as Rock, Salt & Nails put it in "Grandmother's Eyes," move "to England, to Australia, to America!" But on the whole, the music on this compilation is vital, even uplifting enough to counteract the bleakness of the lyrics.

-- Banning Eyre

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