Link to Living Tradition Homepage





RACHEL DAVIS - Rachel Davis

Rachel Davis
Private Label RDCD09

I'm impressed. Big on quality and on quantity, this debut recording from Cape Breton student Rachel Davis has all the hallmarks of brilliance. Davis isn't a name I associate with fiddlers, but Rachel's main influence comes from a long line of Longs. Her grandparents, Clarence and Anna Long, fiddle and sing respectively on the CD, and Rachel has picked up both skills from them. Her talent is remarkable: reels, jigs, strathspeys, marches and airs stream from her assured bowing, and those big dance medleys beloved of Cape Breton crowds are effortlessly delivered by this youngster. There are two seven-tune monster medleys of marches, strathspeys and reels here, each over eight minutes long.

Picking favourites from Rachel's music is tough. There isn't a bad track in the round dozen, so instead let me pick some favourite tunes. Memories of Fr Angus MacDonnell is one helluva good tune, and Rachel handles it superbly: it opens one of the big medleys. Miss Admiral Gordon is another great melody, a big strathspey written by William Marshall a couple of centuries ago, demanding good technique which is not lacking here. The Rights of Man is much more recent, frivolously named despite its menacing minor cadences, and Rachel plays some lovely variations. The Marquis of Huntly's Snuff Mill is a fabulous title, and the air it belongs to is simply beautiful, delivered with expression and understanding as well as wonderful tone. The other slow air on this CD, Hector the Hero, irritates me slightly because of Rachel's unusual use of the 4th note in the scale, but it's still a stunning performance.

The opening track on this recording gives considerable prominence to Rachel's accompanists, and rightly so. Buddy MacDonald on guitar and Tracey Dares on piano are key components of the album's exceptional quality. I'd also like to draw attention to Brona Graham's inspired banjo, particularly on the medley ending with Highway Reel: powerful playing and a very tight duet sound. Rachel is lucky enough to have her grandfather Clarence join her for a set of timeless jigs, and grandmother Anna backs Rachel's very pleasant voice on a Gaelic song learnt from Hector MacNeil. Family and friends join in for the final MSR set, full of life and lift, finishing with another great favourite of mine, The Famous Bridge. There are so many good things to say about this CD, but I'll have to stop: has more information and samples.

Alex Monaghan

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 85 of The Living Tradition magazine.