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IAIN MACFARLANE - Gallop To Callop 

IAIN MACFARLANE - Gallop To Callop 
Old Laundry Productions OLP005

Some of you will remember this Highland fiddler's duet album, First Harvest, with piper Iain MacDonald. After a few intervening years in Blazin' Fiddles and other bands, MacFarlane's solo debut is more mellow and understated than you might have expected. It opens at more of a trot than a gallop, three of Iain's own jigs, the first of a fiddler's dozen compositions here. The pace doesn't really pick up until after the traditional air, St Fillan's Monastery, and the classic pipe march, Mrs MacPherson, when the fiddle launches into John Morrison Of Assynt House, a fine driving reel which I think I first encountered on Ossian's Dove Across The Water LP. On the subject of Ossian, Iain MacDonald makes a cameo appearance on whistle, and all MacFarlane's in-laws help out too, on fiddles, clarsach, pipes and keyboards, plus Hamish Napier, James Lindsay and Ewan Robertson in the rhythm section, and foreign import Dermot Byrne on button box at one point, so Gallop To Callop is far from solo fiddle. (For completeness, if you hear a flute coming through, that's Hamish.)

You don't see many quicksteps recorded these days, but Iain has written a cracker in Gathan Na Grèine. His Tatties On The Manifold is a fine 2/4 march too, with a great story to go with it. The piping force is strong in this one, and it's no surprise to see tunes by Donald MacLeod and Peter MacLeod as well as G S MacLennan on this recording, but Iain's own creations are not all in the West Highland pipe-influenced mould. The Head, The Heart And The Tail refers to the different cuts of raw spirit in the distiller's art, and runs transparently into McGoldrick's Freefalling. The title track includes a catchy strathspey and a reel which would both stretch the range of the pipe chanter. The final set redresses the balance though: a strathspey and three reels, with Ewen Henderson on pipes and strong backing from the gang. Even with such a selection of powerful dance music, my favourite track on this CD is probably the mysterious slow air, Am Bruadair, a haunting melody eerily arranged for fiddle and harmonium. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 113 of The Living Tradition magazine.