(Wee Hours)

Additional Reviews of Scottish Music

The Wee Hours - the future of Scottish Music Updated: March 9, 2002

CDs reviewed:

(*** indicates album that is particularly highly recommended.)
(Fire On) Blazin' Fiddles -- Fire On! (self-published 2000). This group was formed in 1998 to showcase Scottish fiddlers and Scottish tunes. The idea was to display 6 different regional styles from the Shetlands to the Hebrides to the Border Counties. The group clearly has fine fiddlers: Aidan O'Rourke (Tabache), Allan Henderson, Andy Thorburn, Bruce MacGregor, Catriona Macdonald, Duncan Chisholm, Iain MacFarlane, and Marc Clement who can, and do, play fast and furious. The skill involved is manifest, but after a couple of tunes the virtuosity becomes boring. This is 12 tracks of massed fiddles, most of the tunes fast. The group has been very popular in Scotland, and the tunes are all well played, but I say you are better off with the albums of the individual musicians.
(nadurra) Capercaillie - nàdurra (Survival Records, 2000) . This CD has been touted as Capercaille's return to their roots after their explorations of world music. Well, they haven't made it all the way back home yet. Those looking for the acoustic brilliance of their earlier CDs Sidewaulk and Delirium won't find it here. This CD has four songs in Gaelic, and a couple in English. The band is solid, as always, and Karen's voice is wonderful, but the sound on this album with the drum set, synthesizer, and pop/rock feel is aimed more for the pop music fans than the traditionalists. There still is a lot of quality here, so it should please the fans who don't want their drop too pure.
(Dan Reid 98 album cover) Dr. Dan Reid Memorial Solo Piping Competition - 1998-- These are live recordings made during the competition itself at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. The performances selected are those of the winners in the March, Strathspey and Reel competition and in the Piobraireachd competition as well as the piobaireachd from the (junior) Cameron/Gillies Championship. 'This is as good as traditional solo piping gets. Pipers included are P/M Roddy MacLeod, Bruce Gandy, P/M William J.R. Livingstone, William McCallum, and Stewart Liddell.
(The Blue Lamp) Johnny Hardie and Gavin Marwick -- The Blue Lamp (KRL Lochshore, 1999) Marwick on fiddle and Hardie on fiddle, guitar, bouzouki and mandolin and their friends on button accordion, banjo, piano, and bazouki play a range of mainly traditional Scottish tunes. This album is more traditional than their earlier album with Davy Cattanach, Up in the Air, which I have praised elsewhere. I was slow to warm up to The Blue Lamp, but the more I listen to it, the more it grows on me. It has a lovely sweet, sound with tunes played at a relaxed, but lively tempo. So I've had to change my review to reflect my growing appreciation of this album. (Recommended)
(Heat the Hoose) Various - Heat the Hoose (Tartan Tapes, 1998). This CD was recorded at "Fiddle'97 Edinborough" during what seems an inpromptu set of recitals and sessions. There is often crowd noise in the background, and the music is not studio-polished. With that caveat, there is some great music on this all-instrumental CD. It starts with a terrific set of tunes from Alasdair Fraser accompanied by Tony McManus. There are also terrific tunes from Clare Mann & Aiden O'Rourke (of Tabache), and Clare McLaughlin (of Deaf Shepherd) plus Connaillaigh, Paul Anderson, Alasdair White, a great set from Karen Steven, Eilidh Shaw, Amy Geddes, and a rousing finale by Chris Stout. Great Scottish fiddling all around. (Highly recommended)
(Dansoozies) The Poozies -- dansoozies . (Hypertension Music, HYCD 200 150) This Scottish/English group sings and plays an eclectic mix-- from the traditional Scots song "Hey How My Jonny Lad, ye're no sae kind ye should hae been" done in a wonderful high energy arrangement to "Poncho and Lefty", to the Gaelic Waulking Song "Beinn À Cheathaich". All this is done with great sparkle, energized by the accordion playing of Karen Tweed. Many of the songs are originals written by band member Sally Barker. I found this album great fun. (The Poozies 1998 album Infinite Blue , with the addition of Kate Rusby is also great, and a bit more Scottish.)(Highly recommended)

(Alchemy) The Tannahill Weavers - Alchemy (2000, Green Linnet). This is the 13th album from this venerable trad group. It is an even mix of 6 traditional tunes and 6 songs in Scots (with a Scots-English dictionary!). I find this CD to be a mixed bag. Tunes that feature Duncan Nicholson's piping (highland, Scottish small pipes, and uilleann pipes!) really jump off the CD. Also wonderful is an a capella version of the song "It Was All for our Rightful King". There is also a nice, but slow, version of "The Gallant Shearers", but the other songs don't strike me as anything special. (Recommended)
(Best of the T Various - Best of the Thistle & Shamrock, vol. 1 (Hearts O'Space 1999). The title of this CD is misleading. This is not a selection of the "most requested" 12 tunes and songs from the radio show's first 15 years, but a selection that has personal associations for the show's host Fiona Ritchie. The choice is as eclectic as her show's themes. Many well-known artists are included, but often on unfamiliar tunes. Missing are some of the greats, e.g. Solas, Dervish, The Chieftains, Silly Wizard, Boys of the Lough, Patrick Street, any Cape Breton musicians... However, taken only as one person's musical journey, it is an interesting collection. (Recommended)
(The Wee Hours) Various - The Wee Hours -- the Future of Scottish Fiddling in North America (1998, Gargoyle Recordings). This is an exceptionally fine album, highlighting the playing of 8 great young fiddlers and one pianist (Cali McKasson). All the musicians were students or instructors at Alasdair Fraser's Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School. Featured on this album are Hanneke Cassel, Rebecca Richman and Robin Smith both from Santa Rosa, Carley Williams, Janel Vanderwarf, Ryan McKasson, Thaddeus Sze, Laura Cortese of San Francisco. This is a great album of largely traditional Scottish music played with enormous skill. Alasdair Fraser comments: "Free-spirited, expressive, youthfully exuberant, unfettered joy." Martin Hayes says: "Amazing virtuosity, intuitive, understanding, music insight." They're right. (Highly recommended)

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