Skipinnish SKIPCD12

After making three fine records in a duo partnership with Canterach guitarist Ross Kennedy, ace fiddler Archie goes it alone for this new outing – albeit in title credit only! With Fiddlers Rock (that annoying apostrophe-manqué is the only thing I could find missing from this brilliant CD!), Archie has made a really exhilarating fiddle-based record – yet it would be unjust not to attribute at least a share of the credit for this to the guest musicians he’s assembled for the project, who include Eamon Doorley, Martin O’Neill, Allan Henderson, Rod Paul, Iain MacDonald, Ron Pirrie and Iain MacFadyen (what a list!). Refreshingly, these guest musicians never turn up “mob-handed”; instead one or two are carefully selected for each track, often cleverly but almost unobtrusively varying the texture for (say) one tune in a set then stepping back out of the spotlight. But equally, integral though these guest contributions undoubtedly are, they’re but (tremendously tasty) icing on the rich cake baked by Archie’s full-bodied and totally involving fiddle playing. This is immensely stylish on everything from driving reels to passionate slow airs and delicate waltzes, with a magnificent control of phrasing and rhythm that surely stems from Archie’s long years of expertise in the west-coast dance tradition (most recently in the context of the Black Rose Ceilidh Band). I could pick highlights from either end of the tempo spectrum: the storming Maids Of Mount Cisco set (track 7), the Arthur Gilles pipe reel set (track 8) and the closing, gently poised Gaelic Waltz Set. But Archie’s selection of tunes is always captivating: it includes Irish (Tommy Peoples, Liz Carroll, Alan Doherty) alongside Scottish pipe tunes, several compositions by Cape Breton fiddle legend Jerry Holland and – modestly – a couple of his own. A winner from start to finish, with superlative sound quality capturing every nuance of Archie’s playing.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 75 of The Living Tradition magazine.