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STEWART HARDY - Hawthorn's Sweeter Shade

STEWART HARDY - Hawthorn's Sweeter Shade
Hooky Mat Records HMS016

Fine folk fiddler and teacher, Tyneside's Stewart Hardy has been involved in several recording projects, with musical partners and students. Here he is on his own for the first time, either strictly solo or playing with himself on twin fiddles, viola and the like. The material here is broadly traditional, ranging from 17th century dance music to modern compositions in the traditional styles of Scotland and England. Two of Stewart's own compositions are featured, Farewell To Bradford and the title track, both charming slower numbers. They sit comfortably alongside classics and curios by Hill, Gow, John Mason, Frankie Cleeve and Willy Miller, as well as the same number again of traditional melodies by unknown composers. The Tyneside influence is strong, with Hill's Bottle Bank and Factory Smoke joined by his rarely heard strathspey Free Trade, plus a couple of modern rants and several slower Northumbrian tunes. Hardy's fiddling is technically nigh perfect, and his solo performance is enough to hold the attention for over an hour on this CD.

Some of this music was new to me, and a few of the tunes have instantly won a place in my musical affections. Emma's Reel, part of Kathryn Tickell's extensive repertoire, and Cleeve's wonderfully rhythmic Yule Sea, are two of my new best friends. Others are equally delightful, but too close to tunes I already know well: The Flower Of Yarrow, a haunting air stunningly played by Stewart, has much in common with the well-known Sir John Fenwick, and Mason's Lament For The Death Of The Rev Archie Beaton bears more than a passing resemblance to The Mountains Of Pomeroy. You're bound to find something on this CD which takes your fancy: more details can be obtained at which also offers Stewart Hardy's previous recordings and books.

Alex Monaghan


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This album was reviewed in Issue 95 of The Living Tradition magazine.