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Private Label JMMCD003

With a superb piping pedigree and an equally fine touch on the wooden flute, this Lewis multi-instrumentalist and composer focuses on his island heritage and his own compositions on Fìbhig. Fine new tunes, a dozen musicians and singers, and bewitching production by James himself bring the rugged beauty of the Hebrides to life. Birthdays and weddings, mountains and sea, and an animal menagerie - there's no shortage of excitement here. For an island album, especially one from Lewis, Fìbhig is surprisingly cheery and upbeat, enjoyable from start to finish. I believe there's a tunebook available too.

Three jaunty pipe reels are followed by the charming title track, named for a tiny hamlet in the back of beyond - well beyond Back anyway. A trio of traditional-sounding jigs showcases James' resonant flute in a rich arrangement. Two pipe marches pay tribute to a pair of ladies including James' wife Katie who provides lead vocals on the final track, the only song here. The Archivist is a highlight for me, a gorgeous jig on flute and whistle with driving guitar and harmonium accompaniment. Cats and dogs, mice and monkeys inspire catchy tunes on pipes and flute before two big final tracks: solo pipe marches, and that song with lyrics by Calum Alex Macmillan. Gun Èirich Sinn Fhathast ends Fìbhig on a positive note, looking forward to the ceilidhs and social gatherings once our present difficulties are over.

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 144 of The Living Tradition magazine