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Rostral Records RTRLCD015

This popular Ayrshire fiddler is joined by Marc Duff on whistles and singer-guitarist Aaron Jones on bouzouki for another impressive collection of his own and other people's compositions. McCulloch contributes four new tunes here, and there are pieces by numerous other fine fiddlers as well as singer Tim O'Leary and piper Donald MacLeod, plus a good handful of traditional tunes. Aaron sings three songs, all traditional and very well known: he has a fresh version of The Wild Rover, but his take on Billy Taylor will be only too familiar to anyone who has followed folk music for more than a few months. Green Grow The Laurels is often heard in Irish ballad sessions, it's an attractive song delivered strongly here with a tasty trio arrangement.

On the instrumental side, Alistair and Marc duet on most tracks and there's a solo from each of them. They mix old and new material, and both players are adept at finding fresh nuances in old tunes or bringing out the playfulness of more contemporary numbers. A fine example is the set of jigs beginning with John Brady's, an old favourite, followed by fiddle star Colin Farrell's funky Mouse In The Kitchen, then one of Alistair's own with more of a modern Scottish piping feel, and finally Barney From Killarney which hits the offbeats in a way that belies its age. Marc's solo set starts with the lovely Montgomery Bell Waltz by Wick fiddler Gordon Gunn, then adds a pair of Irish reels: Buttermilk Mary which I believe was recorded by Silly Wizard, and Black Pat's which I'm pretty sure is a Tommy Peoples composition. Alistair starts off solo on Da Day Dawn, a great old Shetland air, and is joined by his buddies on four atmospheric Shetland reels. There's another eclectic set of reels before the final air, Urquhart's, a moving McCulloch composition played with sweetness and grace and enough vibrato to shake your teeth loose. Off The Hook is definitely worth seeking out, a broad range of music and song played exceptionally well. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 125 of The Living Tradition magazine.