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VAIR - A Place In Time

VAIR - A Place In Time
Private Label 00001

Vair, meaning “something beautifully made” (and also “fur”, I believe) is the name given to this spirited young four-piece (or should that be fur-piece?) band from Shetland. The line-up comprises Ryan Couper (guitar, mandolin, vocals), Erik Peterson (percussion, vocals), Lewie Peterson (banjo, vocals) and Jonny Polson (guitar, vocals). Vair made its festival debut in 2012, but gained a massive leap forward in profile with a storming appearance at last year’s Celtic Connections.

A Place In Time, Vair’s debut album, was recorded live at the Carnegie Hall, Sandwick – the venue for their first public gig together, at which they’ve played many times since and with whose acoustics they’re thoroughly familiar. Hence the strong feeling of easy synergy and lithe, supple and responsive playing that comes across in everything they play. One might expect the group sound to be deficient in some way, since it lacks the variety in timbre that added fiddle, whistle or accordion (say) might bring, but such is the musicians’ innate natural sensitivity to textural dynamics that the all-string-band complement never feels undernourished, and the combined sound is rich and rewarding. Influences from bluegrass and Irish folk are as pronounced as the native Scottish traditional stylings, and while the mix inevitably proves most invigorating on nifty, animated selections like Jolly Good Jigs and the fiddle-tune set Guizin’, the disc’s gentler moments are persuasive too (Ryan contributes a solo guitar piece written for his daughter). Vair’s repertoire is drawn unashamedly from approved sources like Aidan O’Rourke, Eamonn Coyne & Kris Drever, Ross Ainslie & Jarlath Henderson, Chris Stout, and Ryan’s brother Ross (whose own album with Tom Oakes is pretty stunning too).

Perhaps surprisingly, considering that all four band members sing, there are only three vocal tracks on this album: Atween Da Wadders is a powerfully reflective composition by Lewie concerning the personal struggle for identity, while Waterlilies is derived from a Vagaland poem, and the ‘wild card’ is a Warren Zevon cover that, while suitably lustily rendered in the Tanglefoot mode, perhaps doesn’t quite fit here. One other unusual feature is the use of wordless vocals backing the final tune of the Delunna set.

A Place In Time is much more than the snapshot it describes, for while it showcases an ensemble of already impressive maturity and stylish musicianship, it also prefigures a very bright future.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 120 of The Living Tradition magazine.