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ROWAN LESLIE - Escaping The Dawn 

ROWAN LESLIE - Escaping The Dawn 
Mountain Ash Records MAR2020CD  

A second album from this young Antrim fiddler, Escaping The Dawn contains almost two dozen of Rowan's compositions - and nothing else. All original, the pieces are arranged for fiddle, guitar (Graeme Armstrong), accordion (Andrew Waite) and bodhrán (David Foley). The opening set of reels kicks serious bottom, reminding me of Treacherous Orchestra tracks, and it's followed by a smooth trio of jigs ending with the catchy Jess The Wise. A lot of Rowan's music is lively, full-on, with a driven bow and plenty of crispy bits in the style of Ulster fiddlers - but he can also tackle the slower forms. The waltz, A Whisper Of Rosin, is aptly named, delicate long notes suggesting chiffon and gossamer. Emma And Kenny's First Dance is more robust, but still a graceful waltz. The title air has an almost sacred feel to it, started with Waite's simulated organ and moving into a gentle melody suitable for a bridal procession.

There are plenty of tasty tunes here. My favourites are Blackthorn And Willow, Vests Are Best, Natasha's Anthem and the final Dancing With Goats (we've all been there). Mr Leslie has a good nose for titles too! As with almost any body of new ‘traditional’ music, I hear echoes of well-known tunes, but there's a freshness to Escaping The Dawn that is undeniably original, and I expect several of Rowan's pieces to join the session repertoire in Ireland or his adopted Scotland. The wildness of Brooklyn, the lyrical charm of Departure Lounge Nap, both extremes are attractively crafted and expertly delivered. I've had the CD on in my car for a couple of months now, and I'm still hearing new things. Mind you, I'm not doing as many miles as I used to! Reels and jigs, airs and waltzes, hornpipes and polkas cascade from the fiddle with fine arrangements by all the musicians involved. This is an exciting collection, and promises great things: highly recommended.

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 137 of The Living Tradition magazine