Songs from the Shetland Isles by Shoormal

Review by Hugh McKay.


Turning Tide (Greentrax Records, 2006

What can I say about this album? As it turns out there’s so much to say. Turning Tide is twelve tracks (plus bonus track) of sheer unadulterated delight, a listening pleasure which will massage both your senses and your spirit: I recommend you slip this album into your player, dim the lights and indulge yourself.

Opening with the wonderful Serendipity, with its rich luxurious intro and Donna Smith’s wonderful vocal the standard is set. One of the joys on this album is that Smith has more lead vocals, with arguably the best track, the sensitively written and stunningly performed, Tightrope Walker.

Freda Leask opens her account and delights us as she leads in the eponymous and emotive, Turning Tide. As enchanting as her Shetland dialect is, it never-the-less cannot hide the pain, emotion, and pathos that are found in the lyric. She radiates again in the country vibed, Skin Deep, little wonder, as it is inspired by a poem by her late brother, the poet Brian Tulloch.

You can’t talk about Shoormal without mentioning (though methinks she would shrink from the description) the jewel in their vocal crown Joyce McDill. For me McDill is Scotland’s most underrated female vocalist and songwriter. Reading her lyrics over the past three albums I am convinced she should consider poetry to more deeply express her inner thoughts.

Meandering back to McDill’s vocal, she simply shines whether it’s in the thought provoking Sanctuary, the divine Woods In Winter or the upbeat in both tempo and content Slack Water.

Shoormal may be blessed with great vocals, but that is only a part of what they are. In Smith and Tulloch they have two extraordinary guitarists, with Ritch, Kemp and Arthur. On Bass, Percussion and Piano respectfully, this is truly a gifted outfit, and gifts they use to wonderful effect, all for our ministration.

I for one am thankful for their efforts.

This is a dazzling piece of work. Truly, an offering without blemish. Shoormal, in Turning Tide, has set a standard that others can only mimic. A must buy album.

Buy Turning Tide.