CD Review – Compass by Stewart Hardy and Frank McLaughlin
Claytara Records – 884502 25811 0
7 out of 10
Released in the same year as ‘Roots 2’, ‘Compass’ finds the core duo of Stewart Hardy and Frank McLaughlin collaborating with a number of other musicians and recording approaches in a new collection of tunes and songs that brings something different to the mix. Drum machines and other technology mix with musicians playing everything from Clarsach (Gaelic Harp) to whistles, small pipes, flute, accordion and cello, to provide a richer tapestry of sound. From the upbeat opening of ‘Freedom Fries (The Brain)’ or the ballad like pieces ‘The Clergyman’s Lament’ and ‘Joy Together’ (a different arrangement to the opening track on Roots 2) whilst ‘Mwche’ sounds like Afro Celt Sound System, and ‘Storm’ has a ‘Tubular Bells’ type opening of haunting harp and bass, before a Violin part takes it in a different direction, and ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ has a similar treatment. ‘First Day’ unfortunately has a very 80’s type sound, whilst ‘Flake’ features haunting treated cello, and an ambience completely different to the rest of the album’s tracks. Although there is a lot to like about the album, there is an over-reliance on programmed drum and bass parts, which at times seems to be jarring with the traditional instruments that are at the heart of this album’s sound.