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Briggie Stane Music BRIGGCD101

This album featuring Frances on English concertina and Claire on fiddle / vocals made me smile just looking at it, two fresh faced girls in a boat, each one a hand at the wheel. Love the shoes by the way!

The first track immediately reminds me of a fiddle-friend of mine who was taught to play Scandinavian music by her dad - that eldritch, contagious, Northern swing that catches you off-guard if you were expecting regular jigs and reels. I can never quite get a handle on Shetland or Scandinavian music and that’s what I love about it and this album. It’s got the C factor: that crisp-cold, clouds for breath, crunchy snow, bright winter morning clearness.

About the album cover, the girls each having a hand at that boat wheel - the musical cooperation is fabulous. There’s a lovely blending of the fiddle and the concertina, each supporting the other while dipping in and out of the limelight. While Claire and Frances are obviously very much into tunes, the songs are very well supported, done in a way that treats the voice as another esteemed instrument, which, of course, it is.

Though Claire’s voice may be a bit breathless at times and maybe not as polished as that of someone who doesn’t have to give their attention to playing the fiddle so well, the songs are sweetly and simply sung, as if from one friend to another, or a mother to her child. No ego-tripping, no effects, straight into your ear, like a little secret.

And the tunes - no muddy, overly trodden pathways there, though at the end of the album there’s a sweet, well played traditional set. But there’s a whole heap of original tunes and songs by Claire, Tom Anderson and others. The accompaniments are spacious, intricate and modern, as well as creating the sense that they are backed up soundly by tradition.

Claire’s fiddle playing is soulful, precise and sweet (there’s that word again). A lot of care goes into every note and because there’s no playing at Olympian speeds, the tunes actually arrive in your heart via your brain before they’re over. This seems to be a rare thing nowadays, when everything must go faster and be bigger and go ‘boom’ often.

I’ve never understood the concertina and I have not and will not ever try my hand at it. I am in awe of anyone that can make sense of the wicked thing. I’ve heard a few concertina players and mostly my limited ear can’t really distinguish a unique personality. Not so in this case. Frances makes the concertina talk and sing in its own unique and lovely voice.

A piece of advice to the listener. Please, please, really do listen to this album. It’s not for use as background music; it’s not for talking through. Take a wee hour of your life, get a hot cocoa or something, and just sit down, close your eyes and listen.

Annemarie de Bie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 97 of The Living Tradition magazine.