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BLAZIN' FIDDLES - Thursday Night In The Caley

BLAZIN' FIDDLES - Thursday Night In The Caley
Private Label BRCD2011

Album number five sees a change in the line-up of this flexible fiddle fiesta. Shetland fiddle diva Catriona MacDonald has made way for fellow islander Jenna Reid, herself something of a fashion model. The guitarist's seat has fallen to Anna Massie, whose talents stretch across banjo and mandolin to embrace the fiddle. Allan Henderson, Iain MacFarlane and Bruce MacGregor provide the rest of the firepower: with these three fiddlers from around Lochaber, and Andy Thorburn on piano, the range of musical styles on this album is considerable.
As well as their usual stately strathspeys, rollicking reels and jaunty jigs, Blazin' Fiddles have recorded some less conventional tracks here. There's a very pretty dance tune from Asturias, perhaps familiar to fans of Llan de Cubel. There's an equally charming Norwegian Waltz by Vidar Skrede, followed by The Golden Eagle on guitar and piano, before one of these fine fiddlers makes a determined attempt to flatten out the rhythm. There are two slow airs, both piano-led, one collected by Burns in the eighteenth century, the other from the Irish song Sliabh Geal gCua written in the early twentieth. The Irish connection is continued by a set of "Strolkas", grand old Scottish strathspeys fitted to the frenzied rhythm of the Kerry polka, something of a trademark piece at Blazin' Fiddle concerts, and great fun to try at home. Just take your favourite stately strathspeys - Gow, Skinner, Marshall, or any traditional tune - then flatten out the dots and increase the tempo for hours of cross-cultural fun.

Of course, Blazin' Fiddles can play strathspeys properly too: the final track is a fine example, starting with the heavyweight Braes Of Banffshire before relaxing into a Thorburn jig and three driving reels. The preceding set is also pretty special, with compositions by Sandy Brechin, Phil Cunningham, and old boy Aidan O'Rourke. In fact, you could start at the end and work your way back to the beginning, then listen to the whole album again from the top, and still find something new on Thursday Night In The Caley. There's a lot to enjoy on this CD - try for a taster.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 89 of The Living Tradition magazine.