‘More than a touch of…the Renaissance woman about her’

All Shall Be Well – Original Songs Of Winter, Of Peace, Of Christ­mas. A new CD by Jill Slee Blackadder and friends. Peerie wise Productions, £12.99.

Every now and then a new album comes along which can be truly described as a breath of fresh air, especially in a season when so many dodgy Christmas tunes from the past resurface. I haven’t heard of any plans for Slade to visit Shetland, but let me not catch them in a darkened backstreet, or I may take a horrible revenge on behalf of millions of mall shoppers!

It makes a change to see Jill’s name at the top of a piece in The Shetland Times, but there is more than a touch of the multi-talented Renaissance woman about her. All the melodies and lyrics on the album were penned by herself over several decades, and the compre­hensive liner notes explain how they came to her, and where the songs have been used – everywhere from Philadelphia to Stavanger to Hamnavoe School.

Jill generously urges listeners to “take them with you, sing them, play them and adventure with them into renderings and arrangements I can’t even begin to imagine”. To this end the lyrics of all the songs are included in the notes. I am sure there will be demand from all sorts of musical groups for a booklet including the melodies. The songs could certainly be used and enjoyed by performers of widely differing ages and musical abilities, and I will be more than a little surprised if a number of them aren’t heard at school concerts in the next year. (Three of them were written for that very purpose, and should be giving pleasure to a much wider audience.)

The team of musicians are of a very high calibre. Janice Armstrong has lately been singing as part of the Ffancy Tunes team, and her joyous, soaring introduction to the first track, Who is The Child ?, sets the bar high for the rest of the album. Alan MacKay has moved effortlessly from one role as a talented rock guitarist in live gigs, to showing his mastery of acoustic guitar on this CD. An occasionally flamboyant intro leads into a carefully-crafted accompaniment, complementing the vocalists, rather than “me too” competition.

Jill herself shows her considerable vocal ability, whether solo, with Janice, or with Janice and Radina MacKay in the round Here in a Blind World, which builds to an emotive climax, then tapers down as the format requires. Jill’s solo, Take a Bairn, is perfectly suited to her voice, and sung with obvious feeling. Mind you, this is a lady who can stand up and do vocal improvisation at a jazz festival – and get invited back! She also contributes piano backing on some of the tracks.

It is also a pleasure to hear the bairns taking part – one of their tracks, Peerie Doo, is perfect for those whose appetite for partridges in pear trees is getting a bit jaded.

The project was recorded and mixed by Marvin Smith, with his usual careful attention to a clean and musically pleasing sound. He also makes a cameo appearance on bells …

The CD will be launched tomorrow in Lerwick’s Methodist Church, from 1-2 pm, with refreshments provided. I would recommend getting this album onto a player near you – soon!
Maurice J Smith


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