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HANNEKE CASSEL - Dot The Dragonís Eyes

HANNEKE CASSEL - Dot The Dragonís Eyes
Cassel Records HJC2013

In 1998, I first encountered Hanneke Cassel in Boston College during that year’s Gaelic Roots festival. Her appearance was remarkable - bright eyed, bushy tailed, possessing a winning smile and eyes that burned of liquid sunshine. She made an immediate impact - self-assured and confident in her abilities and borne of some almost starry eyed existence – if ever a golden child (beloved of the psychedelic world) existed in Celtic music circles, it was she.

Raised on the Oregon coast and entering Scottish fiddle competitions and studying with Alasdair Fraser and Buddy McMaster, she headed for Boston and there our paths crossed briefly. Since then, I have studied her career and music as it develops and a number of albums (solo and collaborative) later comes Dot The Dragon’s Eyes – its title coming from the Chinese legend of Zhang Sengyou, an artist who drew a dragon with pupil-less eyes, inserting pupils on an abbot’s insistence and the dragon coming to life. Musically, think Eileen Ivers with a Scottish flair. As the opening title track flies into the aural realms, it cuts and swathes, mixing classical cadences and jazz licks in its driving flow and The Marathon (For Boston), written on the night of the 2013 bombing, conveys collective shock and restlessness, while Katrina McCoy’s Jig balances classical cadences and Scottish fiddle tones reminiscent of Alasdair Fraser’s approach.

While this album has her name on the front, the collective sound of fiddle, cellos, guitar and piano neatly crosses collective borders. Vocalist Aoife O’Donovan adds the sole song, Religulous, itself combining Cassel’s born again convictions within a melodic lyrical template.

This isn’t your regular traditional fiddle album and Hanneke Cassel isn’t likewise a regular fiddler either - she inhabits the Scots/Cape Breton/Texan idioms with a worldview that’s all encompassing and enlightened. Dot The Dragon’s Eyes is music to be suitably enlightened by also.

John O’Regan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 103 of The Living Tradition magazine.