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CHRIS LESLIE - Fiddle Back 

CHRIS LESLIE - Fiddle Back 
Paws Records PAWS003 

In Fairporter Chris’s own words, faced with the lockdown prospect of no touring or sharing live music for many months ahead, he reached for something he could do to “redress the balance”. And he’s come up with a magnificent new solo album (five years on from Turquoise Tails), recorded at home using just a dozen or so instruments and an abundance of creative imagination but also exercising considerable sensitivity and restraint in multitracking.

As you’d expect, the track list is generously wide-ranging and stimulating. Several tracks contain thoughtful, admirably less-is-more takes on traditional material. Tunes include Old Morpeth, St. Anne’s Reel, the Appalachian Sandy River Belle; a jolly, somewhat Mike Oldfield-ish (sic) arrangement of Resia Valley Melody (from Italy); and a cheery calypso-style Curly Headed Ploughboy. A contrasting highlight is a fresh new version of the song, A Sailor’s Life, leagues away from the epic, iconic Fairport account on Unhalfbricking and built around an appealing yet slightly ominous oriental-sounding riff. Self-penned adventures include the spirited pairing of Angels Of The North And South with the Scandi-inspired Elvish; The Sea Spirt with its crashing waves of hardanger; and the classical-cadenza-styled title track. There are also three fine specimens of Chris’s own songwriting: the deft pastoral Gwyr Ha Gwynn Ha Glas, the English-countryside-themed Traveller’s Song, and a tribute to the maker of his hardanger fiddle, Song For Andreas.

Fiddle Back is chock full of Chris’s trademark consummate virtuosity-in-hand-with-musicality; every note and nuance bear the stamp of craftsmanship. And it’s fully in line with his stated intention, “to create and make something positive from my heart”.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 136 of The Living Tradition magazine