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RANT - The Portage 

RANT - The Portage 
Private Label MBR8CD  

A third album from this fiddle foursome, and a slight change of line-up - Sarah-Jane Summers, busy with various new projects, steps aside for Anna Massie, long-time guitarist with Blazin' Fiddles waiting for a fiddling opportunity of her own. Together with Lauren MacColl, Bethany and Jenna Reid, Anna's fiddle makes up the new RANT sound: no accompanists, no guests, just a wee touch of viola from Lauren. The material on The Portage is what you might expect: Scottish traditional from the highlands and islands mainly, a fair amount of Scandinavian music, and several of these ladies' own compositions. The only track which didn't wow me was Westlin' Winds, a lowland air. There's a surprise entry at number eight: Andy Cutting's Altfechan, a polska of sorts, fits perfectly between two Tom Anderson reels and a Gaelic air from the eighteenth-century Simon Fraser collection.

The rich harmonies and rounded tones of four fiddles are luxurious from the first notes of Göran Berg's, one of Jenna's tunes, to her sister Bethany's title track. Crow Road Croft by Lauren is a stunner, strong and sinuous, velvety grace over tempered steel. RANT slip in a funky Liz Carroll composition, a Skinner hornpipe and a lovely Swedish hambo before the real meat in this musical sandwich. MacColl's Rosemarkie Man is a huge piece, strikingly arranged, taking advantage of the resonant acoustics in Glasgow's Mackintosh church. Arnt Ivar's Polska by Norwegian fiddler Julie Alapnes Normann is similarly epic, sweet and simple but leaving scope for layers of harmony and counterpoint. The Rescue Man and Pam's Hoose are taken to town here, with arrangements somewhere between Vaughan Williams and Vin Diesel, a mounted chase through sleepy English villages perhaps. The final piece, from which The Portage takes its name, is another wide-screen action number, Yul Brynner this time as the fantastic four are augmented by hints of the Magnificent Seven. Whatever your listening and fiddling pleasure, RANT is still the horse to back and this album is as sure-footed as any.

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 131 of The Living Tradition magazine