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Copperfish Records CPFCD005

The third and perhaps final album in Duncan's Strathglass trilogy, Affric picks up the threads of Farrar and Canaich: beautiful melodies, a mixture of Scottish and Irish influences, and Duncan's own compositions inspired by his Inverness-shire home. Like Canaich, this recording opens with a gorgeous Gaelic melody. An Ribhinn Donn, played on solo fiddle with subtle accompaniment, is a wonderful example of a timeless Scottish slow air. Big Archie which follows is unmistakably contemporary, guitar and percussion emphasising the reggae rock beat, in keeping with the Wolfstone side of Duncan's career. Rubha Nan Marbh is the first of three tunes with Irish associations, this one by the ex-Danú partner of Uist singer Julie Fowlis: but the Irish strand has already been represented by piper Jarlath Henderson who sneaks onto Big Archie along with box-player Iain MacFarlane. If I had to pick a favourite on this album, it would probably be Grey River Waltz: the arrangement and the melody are both spine-tinglingly eerie, and remind me of the savage scenery at the west end of the Great Glen. It's another Chisholm original, and Duncan's pounding Flooded River runs it a close second as well as providing some great images for the CD artwork.

Chisholm compositions are scarcer in the second half of Affric. Phil Cunningham's beautiful House in Rose Valley is followed by piper Rory Campbell's potent Innes Campbell, both with spellbinding fiddle. Duncan contributes The Erchless Scout, a funky little number in 10/4 with the multi-talented Ali Hutton on low whistle, before an achingly poignant unnamed slow air brings us to Allan MacDonald's waltz We're A Case The Bunch Of Us. There's a final flurry of pace with Running The Cross and Anne Lacey's, modern reels by Chisholm and Liz Carroll respectively, which evokes that Wolfstone sound again. The last track is saved for Johnny Cunningham's magnificent air Night In That Land recorded by Nightnoise among others, a fitting memorial to a fiddler who influenced so many musicians. The combination of Cunningham's music and Chisholm's interpretation is something very special, and ends a three-album musical journey which has been a delight from start to finish. If you enjoy sublime Scottish fiddling, is the place to find out more.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 94 of The Living Tradition magazine.