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Geosound GSCD002

Orkney twins Jennifer and Hazel Wrigley have been recording and performing together for more than 20 years now, and it shows on their sixth duo CD: almost an hour of music on fiddle, guitar and piano. The title refers to the distinctive Orkney style, classic Scots fiddle music with some Scandinavian influences and a dash of swing or traditional jazz. Idiom sticks closely to this formula, but the sisters also throw in a pair of Irish reels learnt from the group Ash Plant: Solus Lillis and The Dublin Lasses.

Jennifer and Hazel are joined by a good handful of their fellow islanders for some of the brisker tracks here, adding accordion, banjo, drums and electric guitars for that typical Northern Isles dance band feel. The opening two tracks wouldn't be out of place in any Scottish ceilidh: Jimmy Garson's pipey march Skea Brae, and a pair of reels based on melodies by Aly Windwick. Cathy Fink and well-known non-Orcadian Jim Walker conspire to create a skiffle beat behind these tunes, and the American swing vibe is continued into Jennifer's composition Shetland Pony Shuffle. It's back to auld claes and porridge for Iris Nicolson's Favourite and the medley For Eric & Gayle, straight tunes in the Scottish North East fiddle tradition.

After an intriguing flirtation with the 1970s English ragamuffin style for Sandy Lamb's Polka, there's another slice of Americana in Drunken Goats. The Scandinavian side of Orkney music comes through in the grand old air Sigurds, and also in Jennifer's composition Magnus' Polska, brooding modalities from mainland Europe. Swing is in the air again for two almost-hornpipes, then a pair of Orkney polkas new to me lead up to the final air. Hazel wrote Luca, and the equally fine Erika: in between is Jennifer's air James & Emilie Kirkness, and all three are beautiful examples of Orcadian music. Orkney's dark winters and darker legends lie behind the melody of Luca, despite the upbeat arrangement. Jennifer's tune is a delightfully simple Scots melody, instantly memorable, while the modern waltz Erika defies further categorisation. With Idiom, the Wrigley sisters have once again shown themselves to be mistresses of a wide range of styles.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 89 of The Living Tradition magazine.