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KATIE MCNALLY TRIO - Now More Than Ever 

KATIE MCNALLY TRIO - Now More Than Ever 
Private Label  

This combination of Scottish fiddle, jazz piano and Americana violin is a rare and precious alchemy indeed! The trio’s first album, The Boston States, was a revelation, and their second is a joy. Polished to just the right level of dazzling, Now More Than Ever moves beyond the traditional tunes and sounds of Scotland and Nova Scotia to embrace modern rhythms and cadences, covering a fat dozen recent compositions as well as a few old favourites. Katie, Neil and Shauncey contribute 11 of their own melodies, with the majority coming from the boss lady.

Toappreciate this trio's approach, it's worth understanding where they've come from. Katie was immersed in the Boston Scottish fiddle scene as a teenager, learning from the likes of Hanneke Cassel and Alasdair Fraser, quickly rising to lead and teach in her own right. Neil Pearlman was born into a family of traditional musicians and dancers, and branched out into jazz after a thorough soaking with Scottish music inter alia. Neil has been playing with Katie for many years, as accompanist and also as virtuoso pianist. Shauncey Ali plays viola here, but don't think of that as second fiddle; with many championship titles to his name, and a master of styles from Chopin to choppin', he bridges between the folk and the funky, and provides much more than back-up fiddle.

If you want a microcosm of this trio's music, try John And Maurizio's Wedding March and Dr MacInnes' Fancy, the middle track of nine here. Starting with an almost oldtime double-stopped sound, the arrangement morphs into a more classical march, stately and sublime, before a delicately articulated fiddle lead on a great Scottish pipe reel is neatly backed on low fiddle with a rock band rhythm, finally adding funky piano chords for a very modern feel. Now More Than Ever is almost evenly split between slower pieces - Lament For The Red Ladder, Worthley Pond, Acadia March, Bearcat Waltz - and the punchier dance rhythms of Marcel Aucoin, June's Right Arm, Lad O'Beirne's and the final Stevie Saint classic Quinie Fae Rhynie. I know it's early days, but this album is going straight on my Top Ten shortlist for 2021!

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 138 of The Living Tradition magazine