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LITHA Dancing Of The Light

LITHA Dancing Of The Light
Artes Records  ARCD3045

Litha turns out to be the new name for the outfit previously known as 2 Duos (we presume the name change was instigated in order to avoid confusion with the Wood/Cutting and Tweed/Carr combo bearing an almost identical moniker). As you’ll recall, this particular quartet comprises four award-winning young musicians – two Scots (flute/whistle/fiddle player Claire Mann and singer/bouzouki supremo Aaron Jones) and two Germans (singer/fiddler/accordionist Gudrun Walther and guitarist Jürgen Treyz). They meet at this quite literal Celtic crossroads to share and celebrate their common ground through exciting yet truly relaxed musicianship that’s so natural and refreshing, partly because you feel (as they themselves clearly do) that they’ve nothing to prove.
Dancing Of The Light continues in the vein of collaboration established on the band’s debut Until The Cows Come Home which so captivated me back in 2009. It presents a further wholly enterprising selection of material drawn from an assortment of folk musics (not just Scottish and German sources), and still unashamedly incorporating quality contemporary songwriting alongside songs from tradition, while the purely instrumental tracks easily mix and match tunes from predominantly Irish sources with more recent compositions (including two by Gudrun and one by Jürgen).
Taking the six instrumental tracks first, these range from the driving but dynamically controlled charge of the Rosie’s Reels set and the sparkling Flying Dairymaids medley (moving easily from a Charlie Lennon opus to two old Scottish jigs, all played suitably whirlingly but never too fast!) to a quartet of Bavarian dances (Zwiefach) and, perhaps finest of all, a lovely pairing of the slow air An Buachaill  Caol Dubh (which Claire learnt from Cathal O’Connell) with Gudrun’s charming New Year Waltz. Each of these selections is intelligently scored and superbly played, bearing replay in a way that instrumental tracks don’t always manage; and I particularly liked the instances when extra instruments (eg. dobro, guizouki, viola) are taken off the rack to provide additional felicitous variations in texture and balance.
Moving on to the songs, we find three sung in German: a dark dramatic ballad (Herr Oluf) from the age of Goethe, a setting by Gudrun and Jürgen of a poem by Theodor Storm (Mondlicht) and a perky treatment of the German folksong Nun Will Der Lenz Uns Grussen. These are complemented by fine versions of songs by Anne Lister (Icarus), Suzanne Vega (Gypsy) and Karine Polwart (Waterlily – from which this album takes its title, by the way), and a real discovery (Blind George, a story of local demons and brave fiddlers, from the pen of Tim O’Leary). Finally, album closer Ready For A Jar is a convivial group composition guaranteed to “set the house on fire”!
Vocally as well as instrumentally, Litha are truly blessed, since they possess two excellent lead singers in Aaron and Gudrun, while Claire and Jürgen’s backing vocals are both supportive and well harmonised. This CD is an especially scintillating example of the diversity principle at work providing an immensely satisfying listening experience.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 91 of The Living Tradition magazine.