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MIRANDA MULHOLLAND - By Appointment Or Chance 

MIRANDA MULHOLLAND - By Appointment Or Chance 
Roaring Girl Records 

By Appointment Or Chance is the second solo album from this in-demand Canadian fiddle player and singer (formerly of Great Lake Swimmers), who’s nowadays part of the duo Harrow Fair with Andrew Penner. Unlike its 2014 predecessor, Whipping Boy, this album was recorded in England (the village of Twyford) with a dream-team backing trio comprising Australian jazz harpist Tara Minton, bassist Joseph Phillips (Wailin’ Jennys, Jayme Stone) and British guitarist Tali Trow (who’s also the album’s producer). Their stylish combined music-making integrates well with Miranda’s own accomplished violin playing and provides a wonderfully complementary backdrop for Miranda’s singing, which like her violin work betrays her classical training.

Two instrumental items aside, By Appointment Or Chance mostly comprises songs. The track list mixes traditional (The Parting Glass, a plaintive Old Churchyard, and a tellingly syncopated Peg And Awl featuring some delectable plucked guitar rhythms) with quite recently-penned covers. Best of these is Jordie William Lane’s powerful Black Diamond, while Miranda’s expressive take on Anna McGarrigle’s Heart Like A Wheel enjoys some fine harp and vocal antiphony from Tara. But I find Miranda’s own “antique-Celtic” melody for Tennyson’s Crossing The Bar at odds with the poem’s sentiment (but then, we’re spoilt by the beautiful Rani Arbo setting!), while an unsettlingly jazzy Raglan Road doesn’t quite convince. Of the instrumental cuts, I especially enjoyed the strathspey-and-reel pairing of Hunt Of Zax (energetically played in florid classical style) and Joseph’s superbly “snappy” tune Pirate Rémi. I’d have liked more instrumental tracks (and not just to boost the playing time!), but the disc’s still an accurate, honest portrayal of Miranda’s talent.

David Kidman