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STEVEN SPENCE 'Spencie's Tunes' Berry Broke Recordings SPENCE01CD

Steven Spence is from Unst, which is as far north you can go in Shetland before it becomes the Arctic. Whatever else those cold northerly climes do, they certainly can produce first-class fiddle players! From a fiddle-playing family, Steven was one of Tom Anderson's pupils, and started composing at the age of eleven. Yes, eleven, and he wrote the tune for his mother. That tune, Ruby's Success is here, along with many others that he wrote, either during or after his ten years with the outstanding Hom Bru.

Accompanied here by the arranger John Laughland, Steven displays a full range of slow airs, jigs, reels, waltzes and marches in his rhythmic and driving hallmark style, letting the quality speak for itself. If a key indicator of success in writing in the traditional style is that the tunes already sound as if they have been around for years, then this is one very successful composer indeed. At the same time, paradoxically, the tunes do have a freshness and brio about them that hint at their more current provenance.

Most of the tunes have a story behind them, they're being written for people or events in Steven's life. The final track, Calum's Waltz, is dedicated to a wee laddie with a neuromuscular condition, and we get the whole of the Primary 6 class joining in to give a finale to leave the listener in a reflective yet hopeful mood. All in all, a CD to be sought out, and, if you're a musician, some braw tunes to learn.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 57 of The Living Tradition magazine.