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JAMIE LAVAL - Shades of Green

JAMIE LAVAL - Shades of Green
Lochgoilhead Fiddle Workshop

This American fiddler has won awards and wowed audiences with his interpretation of Scottish and Irish music. Classically trained, Jamie has the technique to handle the trickiest of traditional tunes with a full limpid tone. His website is coy about his roots but hints at Celtic blood, and he can certainly get inside a tune to play it from the heart. On Shades of Green Jamie sticks mainly to slower pieces: the slow slip-jigs The Butterfly and Ronan Hardiman's Cry of the Celts, the airs An Paistin Fionn and An Raibh Tu ar an gCarraig, plus strathspeys, marches, and a country dance from the England which according to Jamie "brutally suppressed" the Celtic people and "squelched their education".

There are faster tracks too, but they're generally less convincing. There's really no comparison between Gladstone's Reel here and on Altan's Island Angel recording, or between this version of The Silver Spire and the way you'd hear it in a good session. The drive isn't there in the reels, the snap is missing from the fast strathspeys, and the general feel just isn't right. This doesn't make Shades of Green a bad recording: it just means that the slow tracks are the highlights. The set of Breton rondes which opens the CD is stunning, starting in the high octave and moving right down to the back strings. The slow strathspey track Impressions of Spey Valley is charming and evocative despite the American-sounding name. The French Canadian tunes J'Aurai le Vin and Duck Dance are catchy enough, but I can't vouch for their authentic feel. Incidentally, many of the names and spellings in the sleeve notes are dubious: but that's common enough even in home-grown Irish and Scottish releases.

Shades of Green may appeal particularly to devotees of slow airs: there are sample tracks on Jamie Laval's website.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 70 of The Living Tradition magazine.