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Spreefix SPREE002

There is something inherently strange about Shetland music. Whether it's the long dark winters, the lack of reality TV shows, or the influence of the trolls, Shetlanders seem to have more imagination, more spark, than most people. Where else would they have formed a ceilidh band the size of a football team, with seven fiddlers who can play in any style from Copenhagen to Chicago? Where else would this group have become so popular that they have now released a second CD? 500 Sessions is a rather misleading title - there is nothing about this music which reminds me of a casual session. From the off, all seven fiddlers are playing rare and intricate tunes in unison, yet every note is spot on. They couldn't be tighter if there was a free bar. Four traditional Shetland reels, including the rarely glimpsed Craa Dang Pussy, are followed by a couple of modern reels, a spirited Irish set, and a pair of Nordic tunes with complex rhythms. The variety continues through all ten tracks - Scottish, Danish, American, and of course Shetland.

Not everyone in Fullsceilidh Spelemannslag plays fiddle. This 11-strong band also includes guitars, keyboards, bass and drums, giving it scope to sound like a standard ceilidh band, a jazz ensemble, or a rock group. That Shetland swing, often attributed to Peerie Willie Johnson but probably more broadly based, comes through in Spreefix, Trip To Austin, and the old time fiddle set Redbird. There are slow tunes here too, the catchy Mike Vass composition Cavers Of Kirkcudbright and the sad-sweet waltz Dreamers by Fullsceilidh's bassist John Clark, but mostly 500 Sessions is pretty up-tempo. The title comes from a card game, apparently: the other way to pass those long Shetland nights. Fortunately the drinking and gambling seem to have been superseded by the music for these guys, and the result is an excellent CD with plenty to entertain any fiddle fan. More information on Fullsceilidh Spelemannslag is available at, including an explanation of their name and details of their fine first album.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 97 of The Living Tradition magazine.