Cromarty Records CRM091

From Australia, Catherine Fraser plays Scottish fiddle like a native and Duncan Smith adds sensitive keyboards. This is their fourth recording together, and continues the combination of old dance tunes with modern compositions from Catherine and others. The reels, jigs and strathspeys set my toes tapping, and the slower pieces are beautifully played. They open with a varied quartet of jigs including William Marshall's 18th-century masterpiece Miss Gordon of Park and Tony Sullivan's modern classic The Butlers of Glen Avenue, and they follow up with the first of three slow airs by Catherine: The Hills of Kaitoke, a really gorgeous melody. Another Sully tune The Roaring Barmaid makes an appearance later, in a set of three new jigs which ends with Ian Lowthian's catchy Return to the Stewartry.

Catherine and Duncan are joined by some well-known guests: cellist Natalie Haas, fiddler Hanneke Cassel, percussionist Eric Breton, and guitarist Tony McManus who works his magic on the slow strathspey Rothiemurchis' Rant. Natalie leads into The Kirrie Gem, another of Catherine's beautiful airs. There are two more notable slow pieces before the finish, a lovely arrangement of This Ae Nicht and Catherine's tune Dancing with George which hints at gutsy double-stopping but stays light and airy throughout. Skipping past a couple of tasty reel sets, we come to the final fling: a flirtation with electronic music, nothing too outrageous, recalling Alasdair Fraser's 1987 album The Road North. In fact, there are quite a few echoes of Alasdair's playing on Rhymes & Reasons - not entirely surprising, as this CD was produced by Alasdair's pupil Laura Risk. The sweet tone on Donald Don of Bohunting and the combination of playfulness and drive on Kissing is the Best of A' clearly show the Fraser resemblance: I can't think of a higher compliment. Heartily recommended, and has more information.

Alex Monaghan

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 84 of The Living Tradition magazine.