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Sungaet Records KEVHENCD02 

A very fine CD of mainly original tunes from this duo, Shetland fiddler Kevin Henderson being familiar to me from his work with Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, Neil Pearlman being a pianist from the USA with a mixed folk and jazz background. Neil Harman adds double bass to most of the tracks. This does not strike me as a jazz/folk fusion album – the jazz influence in the piano playing is certainly detectable, but not intrusive unless you have a severely straight view of piano accompaniment.

The album’s opener, Sjovald, is one of six tracks composed wholly or partly by Kevin; the track also includes Kevin’s use of playing near the bridge (sul ponticello, apparently) to vary the fiddle texture. The second and third numbers are named after Kevin’s sons, in the case of track 3 in a pairing with Talons Trip To Thompson Island, known to me from the repertoire of Nordic Fiddlers Bloc and already something of a classic in my mind. Track 4 is the Shetland standard, Da Trowie Burn, taken at a relaxed pace and extended to a perhaps slightly generous seven minutes.

Neil Pearlman contributes two compositions in the second half of the album, taking up the mandolin on the penultimate number, but my favourite of the later items is Kevin’s Bonfrost, a slower tune and possibly the pick of the selections on the album. These tunes also give a little more prominence to the double bass – Neil Harman’s playing is very much on the unobtrusive side elsewhere.

The album oozes quality, and if you are happy with recordings that are not ‘majority trad’ in terms of the material, you should definitely investigate this one.

Paul Mansfield


This review appeared in Issue 136 of The Living Tradition magazine