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JULIA DIGNAN - The Tea Wifie 

JULIA DIGNAN - The Tea Wifie 
Brechin All Records CDBAR034  

A fascinating and highly unusual album from a well-known Edinburgh fiddler and tea junkie, this CD is arranged chronologically according to the various venues Julia's playing has graced over the years from 1990 to the present. Starting as a classical violinist, Julia was brought over to the Light Side by Russell Hunter and others in a pilgrimage which started at the Royal Oak and encompassed iconic Edinburgh bars such as the Tron, the West End Hotel and the Ensign Ewart. Along the way Julia has played with many of the great and the good of Scottish music - sometimes simultaneously - and acquired a strong and flexible fiddle style which is showcased on this debut recording.

In the Scottish tradition it's not unusual to arrange different tempos and rhythms into a single medley - the famous march, strathspey and reel competition sets, the dances which start slow and get faster, and the combination of different time signatures for marching - but The Tea Wifie goes well beyond this in its mix and match approach. A Scots quickstep, a pair of reels, an old Shetland jig and another reel are put together on the opening track, linked by their Royal Oak associations. A piping medley of The Snuff Wife and Donald Willie segués into Old French and a couple of modern North American reels in remembrance of the departed Tron Bar, while the Hebridean associations of the West End Hotel in the 1990s inspire a big set of schottisches. I was a big fan of Tannas around that time - mainly for their music - and Julia reprises three gentle Gaelic waltzes here from her time with the band.

A flash set of fiddle reels leads to a quartet of tunes written for Ms Dignan by such luminaries as Simon Thoumire, Sandy Brechin and Jason Dove, all of whom feature on this track. Polkas, pipe marches, slow Shetland reels and quick Hebridean marches bring us to the final Half Pipe Lament, Julia Dignan's own tune for her broken thumb - a long story, but thankfully it healed well and The Tea Wifie is testament to her continuing brilliance on the fiddle, supported by a host of fine friends.

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 132 of The Living Tradition magazine