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HORIZONTAL SUNDAY - It's Complicated

HORIZONTAL SUNDAY - It's Complicated
Private Label HS2012

They're not wrong. An offshoot of the well-regarded trad music course in Newcastle, this trio combines two opposed Scottish fiddlers and a Lincolnshire melodeon maestro, all youngsters, producing complex hypnotic arrangements of music by modern composers in the traditional idiom, interpreted loosely. Not unlike Lau - there, I've said it - this combination of English free reeds and Scottish strings is surprisingly successful. Teasing apart the strands of their music is a tricky business, so I'll look at the individual musicians instead.

Dave Gray is a pupil of Andy Cutting and Julian Sutton, combining the soft southern English and even French influences of the former with the rugged Northumbrian heritage of the latter. There are a few Cutting and Sutton compositions here, as well as one by Italian melodeon icon Riccardo Tesi, adding the swirling rhythms of southern Europe to the mix of English, Scottish and Irish forms on this CD. Rarely is the melodeon tackled with more skill and soul.

Sarah Dorward plays fiddle in the Scottish East Coast style, and contributes the lyrical slipjig FLOES Of Fowlis Hall, as well as reinforcing the Scottish ethos. Becca Nice, from Skye, is a West Coast fiddler but plays mainly clarsach here, providing the bass notes and rhythmic accompaniment on many tracks: she is also the source of much of Horizontal Sunday's repertoire, either her own tunes or pieces such as Fiona MacAskill's waltz Ardhaven.

There are a couple of well-known pieces here, Angus Lyon's Washington Square Park and the swaggering Gordon Duncan hornpipe Jock Broon's 70th, but most of Horizontal Sunday's music is freshly grown in the rich soils of traditional hotbeds from the Wash to the West coast of Gaeldom. Their debut album is a bewildering mixture which ticks all the boxes: brilliant, stylish, original, but still rooted in the sounds we all cherish. Don't ask me their recipe for such instant success: It's Complicated.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 93 of The Living Tradition magazine.