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Bird Creek Records BCR003

Though hailing from Alaska, harpist Cheyenne Brown has been based in Scotland for around 13 years and has both researched and taught the Scottish harp. As well as recently releasing an acclaimed solo harp album, Parallel Latitudes, Cheyenne’s performed and toured with cellist Seylan Baxter, and currently leads a trio, the North Atlantic Project, where dobro and bass provide a foil for her own brand of harpistry. Road Soda sees her teamed up with Alaskan fiddle and keyboard player Tory Dugan for a succession of tunes ranging from traditional (Flemish, Irish, Scottish, Israeli, Finnish, Welsh) to original (Fred Morrison, Edith Clark and one by Cheyenne herself). The playing of both protagonists is sparky and well-sprung, and Cheyenne and Tory definitely ‘hit it off’ on this sound stage, with plenty of fortuitously improvisatory conjoining for the listener to savour.

However (for this listener at any rate), there’s a distinct drawback to this disc, in that nearly all the tunes are saddled with a rather formulaic bass-and-drums beat and (often) keyboard block-chordings that are probably meant to mimic rock-style electric guitar, and any musical development there is tends to meander accordingly. As a result, the elegantly free-roaming delights of Cheyenne’s harp and Tory’s soaring fiddle are, for the majority of the time, rather sublimated to the omnipresent rhythmic element; it’s fun enough if you just play tracks like Cuckoo or Bear Dance in isolation, but the persistent beat rapidly becomes rather monotonous, even tiresome, when applied over the course of virtually the whole album. Only on the final track, The Grey Heron, does Cheyenne’s solo harp get a proper outing, having finally jettisoned the rhythm section.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 115 of The Living Tradition magazine.