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Matheu Watson

Private Label  SEE001

Wow, wow, wow and wow! That's the first four tracks taken care of.  I don't recall a debut album more breathtaking than this. Homage, Danny's Birthdays, Las Habas De Berceros and Picnic In The Sky all hit the musical sweetspot. Two of these are Matheu's own compositions, of which there are 13 in total on this recording. In fact, the success of Matheu's music is due as much to his composing and arranging skills as to his own playing. He's joined on this recording by such geniuses as Ali Hutton on pipes, Sean Og Graham on button box and Martin O'Neill on bodhrán, so the ensemble sound is magnificent.

A twenty-something from Lochaber, Matheu plays several instruments here but takes his solos on fiddle and guitar. The traditional Spanish air Las Habas is a gentle fingerpicked gem, giving way to Liz Carroll's reel Drying Out. The first half of Hamish & Ann's showcases Matheu's powerful fiddling, on two more of his own tunes, but the bar is raised considerably when Ali and Martin join in. Matheu's father, Douglas Watson, wrote the air Glencalvie, which is arranged by Matheu as a modern country anthem with slide guitar and e-bow adding plenty of atmosphere. The Doctor's Daughter combines the very Breton-sounding melody and rhythms of Heen with another string band piece, both by Matheu, before we come to a grand piping reel.

The breadth of this collection is quite striking, making it very hard to categorise Matheu Watson's music. Tracks such as Owen's put this CD at the heart of the traditional session scene, on both sides of the Irish Sea. 3 Hornpipes shows influences from further west: Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi. Reunion pulls these strands together again with a fine guitar intro, a bit of button box magic from Sean Og, and then the big finish on pipes and fiddle. This album stretches the broad church of contemporary Scottish traditional music, but in all the right directions. If you need a more precise label for Matheu Watson, try "prodigious". His website is pretty neat too:

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 87 of The Living Tradition magazine.