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Dell Daisy Records DELL003

Sarah-Jane Summers, from the shores of Loch Ness, recently released a trio CD with guitarist Juhani Silvola and double-bassist Morten Kvam. Morten has fallen by the wayside - or maybe retreated into his wintry Nordic fastness - but Finlander Silvola is postponing his hibernation to accompany S-J on this meander through Scots and Scandinavian music. I remember about 15 years ago, when the Afro-Celts were waning and Riverdance was considered a passing fancy, being told that Scandinavian music was the next big thing. I don't usually go for big things, which is maybe why I'm still doing this, but Scandinavia does have peculiarly beautiful fiddle music, and perhaps its time has finally come.

"Beautifully peculiar" might also be an accurate description, as some of the pieces here step outside the familiar sounds of Western music. Summers coaxes low harmonics out of her fiddle, giving an otherworldly quality to the Gaelic melodies Cha Bhi Mi M'Iasgair and Caisteal a'Ghlinne. Silvola is not to be outdone: his guitar lead on Portobello Smile is enchanting and he duets perfectly on the final Culloden Waltz. There is more familiar material on this recording too, from the Irish reel The Drunken Landlady to the Swedish Klezmer Itzikel popularised by Kevin Burke, as well as Scots reels Loch Leven Castle, Miss Wedderburn and others. Most of the material here is actually from Scotland, but the style is more Nordic. Take The True Lover's Lament, from Donald MacLeod's piping collection: Sarah-Jane's light bowing and Juhani's bell-like accompaniment turn this into a Swedish pastoral piece. There are a couple of straight-ahead sets of Scottish dance music, but mostly this album is quite different from most Caledonian fiddle CDs.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 99 of The Living Tradition magazine.