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ALASTAIR SAVAGE - Secrets From The Kitty

ALASTAIR SAVAGE - Secrets From The Kitty
Private Label SAV003CD

Fiddle, guitar and string bass: not surprisingly, this Scottish trio leans towards American music, everything from blues to jug band. In fact, for at least the first half of this CD the sound is definitely more Nashville than Nith Valley. Alastair's Ayrshire roots do come through, particularly on the slow airs Alright With You and Evening Song, but I had this down as a North American Celtic production until I visited and got a bit of background. Guitar and keyboards player Euan Drysdale hails from Bathgate, though his bluesy approach betrays no hint of that town's proud pipe band history. Fifer Iain Crawford schlepped his bass round the bars of New York before returning to play and teach in Glasgow. All three have solid classical music pedigrees, and their technique is superb, but as we all know, that's not the only thing that matters in traditional music.

At times this recording is totally captivating, whether fast and furious like One Of Those Weeks or slow and graceful on Bottles And Friends. Just as often, the flash fiddling falls back to something more like Vaughan Willliams or Copeland, distinctly ethnic, very challenging and complex, but without the swing and soul which makes music survive in the folk world. Maybe I'm too fussy - you should make your own minds up - but there are some tracks here which I am unlikely to listen to again, and most of them feature fiddling outside first position. On the other hand, the evocative piece Andover Market is superb, all three musicians contributing to a fantastic sound, and it's not the only great track on Secrets From The Kitty.

Savage wrote every tune here, and the trio arrangements are generally great, so it's worth checking out the clips on the band's website to see if this collection tickles your fancy: there are plenty of samples from this album and their two previous releases. Don't think too hard about the CD title.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 93 of The Living Tradition magazine.