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IVAN DREVER & DUNCAN CHISHOLM "A Long December Night" Highlander Music HRMCD011

This duo is one of Scotland's hidden treasures. Singer and multi-instrumentalist Ivan Drever hit the big time with Wolfstone, and has earned an enviable reputation as a song-writer too. Fiddler Duncan Chisholm is one of the longest-serving members of Wolfstone as well as a founder of Blazing Fiddles, and is a marvellous interpreter of Ivan's compositions. Together this pair conjure magic from a simple formula: brilliant songs and tunes, no-nonsense arrangements, and flawless execution. This is their second duo recording, and I'm told there'll be a version on DVD as soon as the graphical details are sorted out.

Ivan contributes five songs, the well-known Brave Souls and four less well known including the title track. The Viking Bride is an enchanting ballad in the powerful Scandinavian style of Ivan's Orkney home. Song For Yesterday sets a vivid description of homesickness to a haunting tune, and I Will Be There is a love song for all seasons. Ivan's tune The Flower of Kristians and is one of many beautiful airs that he has written for the women in his life, played perfectly on cittern and fiddle here. Sadly, there are no notes on any of the tracks, and no lyrics provided for the songs, but that's about the only thing wrong with this CD.

The other five tracks are all instrumentals, fiddle-led with a solid guitar backing. There's a gobsmacking set of reels which sandwiches The Bunny's Hat between two Irish classics. There's a pair of Scottish pipe marches, Farewell to Clachantrushal and the ever-popular Jim Christie of Wick, followed by Charlie McKerron's reel The Rizla. Even better, there are three more slow airs including the late great Johnny Cunningham's opus Night In That Land and two traditional Scottish melodies. Coinneach Glas An Fhomair is a solo fiddle masterpiece, and a strong contender for best track.

You couldn't wish for tighter playing or better arrangements. The material on this recording is of the highest quality, and there's no finer duo than Ivan and Duncan to while away A Long December Night. Forty-one minutes is a bit on the short side, but you can always play the CD twice, and more material is promised on the DVD.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 57 of The Living Tradition magazine.