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Brechin All Records CDBAR016

Since Alasdair Fraser's experiments with Ron Shaw in the 1980s, the combination of fiddle and cello has enjoyed an enormous revival in Scottish music. Fraser still leads the field, now with Natalie Haas at his side, but MacGregor and Hanson have followed in their footsteps and this debut duo recording is a treat indeed. The cello is not as prominent as I would wish at times, but it underpins the fiddle beautifully. The addition of guitar and piano is perhaps an unnecessary complication on several tracks, although it does allow Bruce and Christine to vary the sound, with the backing duties falling to Tim Edey and Brian McAlpine.

Bruce MacGregor's fiddle swoops through Scottish classics such as Clydesdale Lasses, Miss Shepherd, Mrs Grant Of Grant, as well as some toe-tapping tunes of his own. Short And Simple is a particularly catchy new reel. There are several striking slower tracks too: Gin Ye Kiss My Wife, Nancy's Waltz, Skinner's fiddle pibroch Dargai, and Bruce's composition Lament For Captain Simon Fraser which ends this selection. I wasn't so taken with the American oldtime Sunday River Waltz, but it does have some great cello harmonies. Nancy's Waltz and Bruce's Caithness Cowboy tribute to fellow fiddler Gordon Gunn, manage to keep that western swing but hold the cheese.
The cello part varies between a tenor melody or counter-melody, as on Mr A G Wilken's Favourite, and a range of accompaniments. Bass drones on The Perthshire Hunt give way to broken chords for the title tune, and some strenuous bowing, then a more conventional bass line. The basso continuo style is particularly effective, reviving the raw power of renaissance viol consorts: the traditional set starting with The Rant is a fine example, with the cello really holding its own through the fiddle fireworks of Pipe Slang. Unfortunately, the cello leads are too often swamped by piano and guitar: Her Mantle So Green is the most cello-centric track here, a lovely melody arranged quite simply, allowing Hanson to shine for a few minutes. If you're looking for a fiddle album with a generous slice of cello, plus a bit of button box from Tim Edey and some solid accompaniment on guitar and piano, this CD will certainly hit the spot.
Alex Monaghan

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