When I received my copy of this CD, and read “…fiddle meets Dr Dre tunes where you might wanna get the subwoofer goin’ in the Toyota Corolla, rollin’ downtown, shootin’ the drag…” I was somewhat taken aback. Am I getting too old for this? However, I was delighted to discover there were no sharp shocks for oldies like me. Brad Reid hails from Nova Scotia, one of my favourite places on the planet, and this CD underscores what I love about the place. It’s unpretentious, grounded, with a sense of history that is never precious. The older material sits quite comfortably beside newer offerings.
The album showcases Brad’s fiddle on most of the cuts - a fiddle that is confident and unhurried, even on the dance tunes, and very much provides the dominant ‘voice’ of the whole album. Behind the fiddle is some very effective percussion, provided by (apparently) Brad’s high-top Russian boots (!) along with congas, bodhrán and “other percussion”. Filling in the musical background are guitar and double bass, which enhance but don’t compete with Brad’s authoritative fiddle. Brad provides effective vocals on two cuts - the Gaelic, Fonn Air Mo Mhaíri Loghaich, and some VERY intricate mouth music on Lucy Campbell & Sandy Cameron which could easily be danced to if there were no instruments (besides Russian boots) to be had.
I have two particular favourite cuts. One is Northumberland Shores, one of Brad’s own compositions. It’s a haunting, slow tune that would be perfect for lyrics, if he should ever be moved to write some. This singable tune certainly deserves to become popular. And The Hector is also a favourite tune of mine. The track employs what could be a clichéd gimmick - the sound of waves breaking on the shore - but the sound of those waves is totally effective here. The Hector was, of course, the tiny ship which sailed from Loch Broom to Pictou in 1773, filled to the brim with settlers who had been cleared from their highland homes. They arrived on Nova Scotia’s shore to many hardships, but this stately, cheery tune captures their indomitable spirit. They kept going in the teeth of adversity, and never forgot where they came from.
Never forgetting where his people came from is what, apparently, motivated Brad to make this CD. He’s done himself and his heritage proud.
This review appeared in Issue 141 of The Living Tradition magazine