As you might expect from a teenage Orcadian sextet, Broken Strings are strong in the fiddle department - three members ply the bow - but they also offer accordion, banjo, pipes, guitar, percussion, and that Northern Isles favourite the mandolin. In fact, Broken Strings combine all the influences I usually associate with Orkney: ceilidh bands, good Scots fiddling, the pipe band tradition, a touch of country music, and a strong influence from their Shetland cousins. Broken Strings won the coveted newcomers' award at Celtic Connections 2011, and from their opening set it's easy to understand why. Fine twin fiddling on a French Canadian standard is followed by a blistering solo intro to The Humours Of Tulla before the pipes pick up Roddy MacDonald's Fancy. Robbie Stevenson and Aidan Moodie underpin the tunes on accordion and guitar, while Guille Lopez kicks serious cajon.
Two new tunes by Graham Low bring out the accordion and filddle sound, with Magnus Bichan switching from pipes to banjo. Lopez and Moodie share the composing credits on Philip And The Bull, a gory story which produced a prize-winning reel. Fiddler Graham Rorie's celebratory reel Room To Let, which I think would transfer nicely to the pipes, holds its own alongside big reels by Kevin Henderson and Paddy O'Brien. Bichan, Stevenson and fiddler Chloe Peace contribute tunes to the second half of Halda, showing all six of these youngsters to be fine composers, but pride of place in the tunesmith category probably goes to Graham for his Hallbreck Hornpipe. The slower tracks are not Broken Strings’ strongest suit, and at times both fiddle and mandolin find themselves exposed, but overall this is a very promising debut recording from a major source of fresh talent. After a bit of a stutter on The High Drive, Broken Strings reaffirm their flair and skill with Karen's Set providing a suitable big finish. The album name is well chosen: brace yourselves for album number two!