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Private Label MSM001CD

Like many other Shetlanders, this pair look to the North for their inspiration. On their second recording as a harp and fiddle duo, Catriona and Chris offer nine tracks of their own compositions with only one exception: the traditional Irish waltz Parting of Friends. The Nordic connections in Isflak, A Home Under Every Tree and the title track are clear: each of these comes with a story, whether about the remote Norwegian village of Å, the early 20th-century film of a vagrant boy, or the Arctic summer with its midnight sun. Another third of this album draws on Shetland's own stories: Da Trow's Jig is one of many credited with a touch of supernatural inspiration, dark and eerie like a night-time sea mist, while Roddy Sinclair is based on a flamboyant fictitious fiddler created by Ann Cleeves in her novel White Nights (no relation). The moving air Michaelswood commemorates young Shetland fiddler Michael Ferrie, a former Fiddlers' Bid colleague of Chris and Catriona, and provides a cathartic conclusion to this recording.

Catriona's compositions Missing You and Eira are both beautiful pieces. Eira, written for a Welsh harpist, has little in common with Nordic traditions, or indeed Scottish music, unless it be the grand dance tunes of Gow and Marshall. Missing You hints at southern climes - Spain, North Africa, the Balkans - with its modal intervals and frailed accompaniment, before blurring into a dreamy breeze of notes and cadences. Edges & High Water is a collaborative work, evoking the savagery of Shetland scenery, probably the most avant garde track on White Nights: extremely powerful, especially for a pure acoustic duo. McKay and Stout's performances are a definite departure from the musical maelstrom of Fiddlers' Bid, a different character of Shetland music, and perhaps all the more enjoyable for that contrast. White Nights is refreshing, uplifting, inspiring and thoroughly captivating.

Alex Monaghan

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