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HALTADANS - Light Ida Lum 

HALTADANS - Light Ida Lum 
Private Label MJELG002  

In the last 50 years or more, Shetland fiddle music has never been far from the forefront of Scottish folk thanks to the seminal recordings of Tom Anderson and Peerie Willie Johnson, Willie Hunter and Aly Bain, Chris Stout and Kevin Henderson, and current standard-bearers Jenna Reid and Ross Couper to name but a few. Haltadans is part of the next wave, with no sign of the tide turning; that same mix of classic Shetland tunes, stateside swing, and bow-twisting new compositions fills their debut album with great music. There was an EP a few years back, but Light Ida Lum is the first chance for most non-Shetlanders to appreciate the combination of three fiddles, guitar and bass which is so flexible in these hands.

The opening medley of five traditional tunes displays the credentials of Ewen Thomson, Lois Nicol and Maurice Henderson as stylish Shetland fiddlers. This is old music, with local variations: a crooked tune for a Fetlar stone circle, a seven-step polka for those long winter nights, a version of Da Shaalds O' Foula, a reel for the bedding of the bride in Whalsay which was somehow omitted from Tom Anderson's recordings, and a driving take on Tilly Plump. Two of the band's own compositions come next, Lois' darkly swung Henny's and bassist John Clark's oldtimey Old Hoose O' Tarrarit. Three more new tunes, reels with stories attached, precede a set of Scandinavian polskas played with rich tone and classical precision over delicate guitar accompaniment by Grant Nicol. More traditional tunes, stotters all, bracket Clark's dreamy Osterøy Sunday Morning and guest mandolinist Jenny Henry's country waltz, 2:33 Ristie Time. Haltadans sign off with the traditional reel Da Oyster and the title tune, another tortuous Henderson original. Bold, beautiful, and based on firm roots, Light Ida Lum is a fine debut and a flaming beacon for young Shetland musicians.

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 132 of The Living Tradition magazine