Link to Living Tradition Homepage





Sleeve not available
BORDERS YOUNG FIDDLERS 'Borders Traditions Volume 3' Isle Records ISLE01CD

Terrible name for a band, but at least it's descriptive. BYF presents five young fiddlers from the Scottish borders, whose musical abilities are well ahead of their years. Most of the album is ensemble pieces, with a tight and full sound, similar to Fiddlers Bid or the Bowhouse Quintet - and equally polished. Young doesn't mean unprofessional or inexperienced here: these fiddlers would give most older musicians a run for their money in that respect. Some of the credit for this must go to Sandy Watson, father of fiddling siblings Lori and Innes: Sandy made the whole project happen.

There's a hidden agenda here, and I suppose a justification for the band's name. The borders style of fiddling is close to extinction, despite previous attempts to revive it, and these young players have learnt from some of the last players in the old borders tradition. Part of the reason for this recording is to rekindle interest in the borders style, and to provide a benchmark for younger players. So what is the borders style? Like the repertoire, it's a cross-over between the Scottish and English traditions: the raw, rhythmic, sparsely ornamented style of Northumberland meets the snap and roll of dominant Scottish fiddling. This marriage of convenience produces some marvellous music, as The Eildon Hills are stripped bare of their fripperies, or The Duke of Roxburgh benefits from added bite.

There are other influences at work here too. You can't produce great young fiddleres in a vacuum - although I can think of many a session where putting the fiddlers in a vacuum would have improved things - so these rising stars are familiar with the music of Scotland, Ireland and beyond. This comes through in the score of own compositions here: slow airs such as Leaving Mull or the American-tinged Lori's Waltz, off-beat reels like Treelights and The Commentator, and jigs with names like Summer on the Tweed and What's All That About? They've also adopted some Scandinavian tunes, and the ringing open strings which go with them: Slow March and Auld Graden Kirn owe more to Sweden than to Scotland.

This CD also contains a multimedia presentation of the music and musicians, with history, notes, and written music for all the tunes here. It will be fabulous if their efforts contribute to a revival of borders fiddling, but in any case Lori and Innes Watson, Rachel Cross, Allan Hyslop and Shona Mooney are names to watch out for. BYF is long on quality and quantity, and speaks of great things to come.

Alex Monaghan

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 58 of The Living Tradition magazine.