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ALASTAIR SAVAGE - When Barley Reaches Shore 

ALASTAIR SAVAGE - When Barley Reaches Shore 
Woodland Records SAV005CD 

Scottish fiddler Alastair Savage likes to sit at the feet of heroes, musically speaking at least. This latest collection pays homage to the greats of the Scottish fiddle world, Niel Gow and James Scott Skinner, while adding some works of his own, including especially composed music for his own wedding and the weddings of others. Indeed, this suite of tunes, Islay Wedding Music, takes centre stage on this latest album – the pieces set Alastair a creative challenge which, on this evidence, he has answered very well. The melodies flow within the traditional/classical canon while observing the necessary social decorum and celebratory aspects. The tunes (Islay Wedding Music Part 1: Wedding Morn, Jenni Minto’s One Way Ticket To Sanaigmore Beach and The Port Charlotte Reel) are all fine individual pieces that should be played at weddings more and such was their influence that for his own wedding Alastair composed three more, Islay Wedding Music Part 2: Welcome Jig, The Boat To Jura and Finlaggan’s Farewell. Again, the tunes show an innate understanding of the modes of writing and technique as espoused by his mentors.

We return to the Gows and Scott Skinners for the remainder of the disc. The Hector The Hero set captures the solemnity, sway and swagger of the air, strathspey and reel settings that James Scott Skinner loved, and the opening tracks, Farewell To Whiskey and Marquis Of Tullibardine from the Gow collections, display style, attitude and composure. This is an album of composed music, yet within the compositional context there is joy and fervour. Subtle, well played accompaniments from Euan Drysdale on piano and guitar and Iain Crawford on double bass make a good supporting cast, but Alastair Savage has the main role and he carries it with skill and aplomb.

John O’Regan


This review appeared in Issue 129 of The Living Tradition magazine