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MATHEU WATSON - Dunrobin Place

MATHEU WATSON - Dunrobin Place
Private Label SEE002

His debut album was going to take some living up to, and CD number two certainly doesn't have the same immediate impact, but this young Scots multi-instrumentalist has pulled off an impressive double with Dunrobin Place. Its catholic gentleness and subtleties complement the Calvinist fire and brimstone of Matheu's first recording, and this time there are no guests to take the credit as every instrument here is played by the man himself. Fiddles, guitars, whistles, banjos, mandolins and flute combine for a rich and full sound with a pan-Celtic character. Matheu has chosen compositions by Anna-Wendy Stevenson, James Henderson, Keith Scammell, Simon Bradley and Alasdair White to sit alongside his own work, as well as a couple of traditional pieces. Mike MacDougall's Cape Breton favourite Memories Of Father Angus MacDonnell stands out, mainly from the surprise factor as Matheu's fiddle drops the leading note down to an F natural, giving this well-known tune a new feel which has already caught on in sessions.

A double handful of Watson tunes make up the bulk of this recording. There's a southern Celtic feel to several of Matheu's compositions, lighter and more playful than the dark brooding tunes of the north, reminding me of Cornish and Galician music. Ceit and Eilish, Miss Hoy and Candas Harbour all have this quality. Maybe it's just the way Matheu feels about women and fish. Other pieces have the expected contemporary Scottish or Irish character of young West Coast composers: Hosta, in honour of a beautiful beach on Uist, and Stillgarry House which commemorates a less peaceful corner of the same island. The title track, which concludes this collection, is a kind of old-time slow drag on ukulele and bluegrass strings - what else? I hear echoes of Fred Morrison and Gordon Duncan in Matheu's music too, which can only be a good thing. There's plenty to enjoy in Dunrobin Place, in a relaxed and gentle way. If you find the CD notes too tiny to read, has all the information you need.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 94 of The Living Tradition magazine.