Link to Living Tradition Homepage






Cloud Valley CV2020 

Multi-instrumentalist Andrew Cronshaw has been an icon of English folk, eclectic folk-rock and New Age music for almost half a century. This album sees his music stripped back to its most basic form - one man and his zithers, two of them, no words, nothing else. Cronshaw interprets pieces from Scotland, Finland, England and the Basque country, as well as two of his own compositions, on a pair of plucked zithers - one a 74-string instrument rather like an autoharp without the mechanics, the other a two-sided version of the mysterious Finnish kantele. The range of sounds which this master musician produces from these simple instruments is quite staggering, and the performances here are nothing short of beautiful.

Zithers opens with a version of an old Hogmanay song, a charming waltz, and then moves to the wilderness of Finland for two stark song melodies. A couple of old Gaelic airs form the first of three Celtic chapters: this one includes the relatively familiar Mo Ghaol Òigear A' Chùil Duinn. Andrew Cronshaw's variations on the English folk song Lucy Wan are perhaps the most untraditional track here, filled with dissonance and clashing resonances. The Basque dance tune Zortziko brings a cheerful note before another sombre Celtic passage: Lament For The Chief, Òran Mòr Mhic Leòid which has been used for many songs, and the medieval Latin plainsong Inchcolm. Two rhythmic Finnish tunes precede Cronshaw's own plaintive To A Smiling Shore and dramatic Sea Ice. The final track returns to Scotland, the Renaissance Anthem sounding like a wire-strung harp piece. If you have a taste for contemplative music, and no objection to a few surprises, Zithers should hit the spot.

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 134 of The Living Tradition magazine