Link to Living Tradition Homepage





ADAM SUTHERLAND  - The Errogie Collection Vol.

ADAM SUTHERLAND  - The Errogie Collection Vol.
Taigh Na Teud ISBN: 9781906804732 

Adam Sutherland is a Scottish fiddler from the shores of Loch Ness (marginally drier than the loch itself) whose compositions have found favour far and wide. As a performer, he has contributed to Croft Number 5, Session A9, The Peatbog Faeries and many other groups playing contemporary Scottish fiddle music. This book presents a generous couple of dozen of his tunes, clearly typeset for ease of playing in dingy bars, together with suggested chords and speeds, and even bar numbers. Each tune comes with a story: from the poignant and topical The Banker And The Broken Man to the more basic My Dad Killed Christine Martin's Pig. There are also some great photos of the area around Loch Ness - not of the pig-sticking though, but if you look carefully you might just catch a glimpse of the monster under the water.

These are modern compositions. They sometimes fit traditional forms - jigs, reels, waltzes, strathspeys - but almost every tune has accidentals and tied notes cutting across the beat. Adam has also invented new forms: the Highland 5/8 and 7/8, challenging to march to but fun to play. If you're a fiddler, that is: the keys and range on many pieces are certainly not suited to the flute or pipes. There are some exceptions, but much of Sutherland's output requires command of two octaves or more, and the ability to play in E major or B flat while changing time signatures every few bars. Despite this wide range, there are common aspects to many pieces which might describe an Adam Sutherland style: repetition of phrases with small variations, contrapuntal rhythms, a flowing structure rather than big jumps, and a fondness for lingering on a single note. Take Thorb The Robot, for example, one of my favourites here, a relatively simple jig but still with all those Sutherland hallmarks.

Some of this music is almost traditional. J J Finlay's, Ship #81, and The Roybridge Reel would fit easily into the fiddle or piping tradition of the Great Glen, and two of them even have traditional names. Roybridge is, of course, a town near the opposite end of the Great Glen from Loch Ness, named after the bridge at Inverroy which crosses the River Roy as it flows down Glen Roy to join the Spean, not far from the town of Spean Bridge. (You can probably guess how Spean Bridge got its name.) Other tunes in The Errogie Collection lean more towards jazz or funk: the waltz Iris, written for Adam's grandmother, and the funky Rigo's Rant are fine examples. Then there's the starkly beautiful air Last Train From Lanark, a great tune in any style, which shows the dangers of pigeonholing a composer.

It was interesting to listen back to Adam's 2013 CD, Squall - his solo debut after well over a decade at the forefront of the Scottish fiddle scene - and hear many of these tunes played at their best. Sutherland and friends jazz them up more than you or I might, but it's always good to hear what was in the composer's mind. In fact, my only real criticism of this book - apart from having to wait for Volume 2 - is that the transcriptions here are sometimes too close to Sutherland's performance, maybe not leaving enough space for variations, whether different styles or ornamentation or even just simplifications for us lesser mortals. The Road To Errogie, for example, naturally the first tune in the collection as one of Adam's earliest and probably his best know composition, includes semiquavers and octave changes and a few other details which might be considered as stylistic or personal choices: I've certainly heard those semiquavers replaced by rolls in Irish ornamentation, and there are several variants of the melody out there in sessions and on albums. At least having a definitive version answers the vexed question of which is the correct key for this excellent reel, although it's not much comfort to us poor whistle and melodeon players to know that it's supposed to be in B major. Ah well, you live and learn.

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 118 of The Living Tradition magazine.