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Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX346

Rua Macmillan’s violin playing won the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year Award for 2009, and here are 10 tracks, each of which demonstrates that the Award was well deserved.  He has the technique – strong fingerwork influenced by pipe-ornamentation, a birl which gives a real rhythmic bite and of course the ability to despatch cascades of notes and technical difficulties with aplomb.

But what sets him apart from a number of his peers in this respect is the ability to handle a slow tune as well.  His BBC-winning track, Bidh Clann Ulaidh, is played with rich tone, understated ornamentation, exquisite phrasing and deep affection which he communicates most strongly.  He also champions modern tunesmiths, no less that 13 of whom are represented here – and he writes a mean tune himself. 

He is magnificently accompanied by Tia Files, whose guitar work drives and supports the violin magnificently, and the excellent understated bodhran of Adam Brown.  There’s a good range of material from traditional pieces (although not enough for my taste) through Easy Club-style “swing folk” and one or two really rock, although a couple of the more complicated items sacrifice memorable melody for rhythmic novelty and display.  A touch of pipes, whistle and concertina also helps.

All very impressive. Tyro?  If after this excellent showing he still feels he is learning his trade, there must be some spectacularly good music yet to come.

Paul Burgess

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This album was reviewed in Issue 86 of The Living Tradition magazine.