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Private Label DJS001

The title is only too appropriate. In the early 1980s, Donald Stewart's fiddle was at the core of Edinburgh's hottest young ceilidh band, Spootiskerry. Surrounded by a melee of Marwick brothers, Donald was the fiddler everyone wanted to emulate. The Marwicks went on to record with Iron Horse, Ceilidh Minogue, Cantrip and others. Donald passed into obscurity for many years, but has now re-emerged as a founder of the London Feis and, finally, as a solo recording artist with this CD. I say solo, because while Chris Boland's accompaniment is invaluable and indispensable, his guitar stays pretty much in the background: this is a fiddle album throughout. Donald plays fiddle and strohviol (google it), as well as piano and acoustic bass. Chris's guitar is supplemented in places by Frank and Sheena Reid on accordion and piano respectively.

Very nearly all of Long Time Getting Here is Donald Stewart's own compositions, penned over the last thirty years. He leads with a big strathspey: if this isn't your cup of tea, skip to the cracking set of jigs which starts with Over the Hill for Lesley. Donald follows these with four challenging modern reels, barely held in check: great fun for fans of ceilidh music. The Hills of Lutsen is an outstanding 6/8 march or jig, and there are a number of compositions with that jazz swing edge characteristic of '90s Edinburgh: Sunday Morning is probably my favourite, narrowly beating the earthier Eastnor. Slower tempos are not neglected: the grand Memories of Elma, the graceful air Alma's Garden, and a trio of waltzes, as well as Neil Gow's tune Farewell to Whisky where Chris comes out of his shell for a fine fingerpicked intro. Donald has a keen eye for a tune title too: the poignant Farewell to Irn Bru, the implausible Ballachulish Bayou, the caustic Banks of Bishopsgate and Linton Bypass are all explained in the comprehensive notes. Long Time Getting Here ends with a set of very traditional tunes, West Highland pipe marches and jigs, stirring stuff - almost a substitute for Irn Bru! The website provides more information on this fiddler, this CD, the Feis London project, and related matters. There are even samples for your listening pleasure, so it's well worth a wee visit.

Alex Monaghan

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