Malt whisky, shortbread and tartan, Rangers and Celtic; all synonymous with Scotland. And then there’s Paul Anderson, who may not be but surely should be. One of the nation’s most respected and recognized traditional musicians, yet not yet having the notoriety of becoming a household name.
Land Of The Standing Stones, the latest addition to his canon, is another fine instrumental-based collection which showcases Anderson’s trademark fiddle at the fore, apart from a couple of songs and tunes with have the addition of some subtle complementary instruments.
It also includes contributions from Shona Donaldson (Scots singer of the year 2009), Swedish citern genius Ale Carr, Ali Napier (from the Dougie MacLean band) and Scottish acting star Kevin McKidd (anyone remember Lucius Vorenus from the series ’Rome’?) who found time to contribute guitar and occasional vocals.
The material on the album has all been composed by Paul himself and at a whopping 70 minutes, it undoubtedly gives value for money. The music itself, though steeped in the traditional Scots fiddle genre, is also contemporary in style, particularly when he lets rip into a set of reels.
The inspiration for the music ranges from his locale and his sons (the twa nickums , or rascals, of one of the tunes) to civil wars, the rugged Scots landscape, and also sees the gorgeous Lament To Macbeth taking its own inspiration from the ’real’ King Macbeth rather than Shakespeare’s slightly more ferocious version. The ample liner notes also go some way to adding detail to the background behind the collection.
However, it’s not to say that it is a case of quantity over quality as there is so much to enjoy throughout the recording. With such a wide selection of tunes on show, it’s hard to take it all in from the first few listens, but standouts include the opening set of jigs and reels, Logie Coldstone/Brian Cruickshank’s Capers/The Twa Nickums/The Banks O’ Dee which really grab the attention and set a formidable pace.
It depends on taste of course, but the sets of jigs and reels which are dotted through the album (and just wait for the set of reels beginning with the Tarland Rant) are a foot tapper’s delight and a lively contrast with the slow airs and laments.
The short title track, written as a commission for Aberdeenshire Council (a gentle reminder that there are some local government offices who have their priorities sorted) being one of the best examples of the melancholy yet strangely uplifting and soothing powers of these mellower tunes.
An album which shows that both quantity and quality can be comfortable bedfellows and best enjoyed in front of a roaring fire, with a crystal tumbler of single malt and a plate of the finest shortbread you can muster.Mike Ainscoe
Released Autumn 2013 on Fingal Records.
1. Logie Coldstone (Jig), Brian Cruickshank’s Capers (Jig), The Twa Nickums (Reel), The Banks o’ Dee (Reel)
2. The Beauty of Cromar Before Me (Slow Air)
3. Elsie Cromar of Glenbervie, The Moose Hoose (Waltzes)
4. The Brae’s o’ Cromar (Strathspey), The Earl of Aboyne (Strathspey), Aboyne Castle (reel), Nicola Auchnie of Auchterless (Reel)
5. Farewell to St Kilda (Slow Air)
6. The Warlock Stone (Strathspey), The Gills o’ Banffshire (Strathspey), Bon o’ Tillyhermack (Reel)
7. Farewell to the King (Lament for Macbeth)
8. Bonnie Henry Gordon (Ballad)
9. Lament for the Gordons of Knock (Pibroch)
10. Charlie Ritchie, The Piper’s Knowe, The Auld Invercauld Brig o’ Dee, Matt Milne’s Hasty Retreat (9/8 Jigs)
11. Lament for the Mighty Norman Anderson
12. The Battle of Culblean, Geldie Cottage (Marches)
13. Gordon Gray (Strathspey), Paddy of Drumniall (Strathspey), The Laird o’ Tillypronie (Reel), Sandy Cromar of Finzean (Reel)
14. Balmoral Castle, The Reverend Kenneth Mackenzie
15. Land of the Standing Stones (Slow Air)
16. The Tarland Rant, The Coyles o’ Muick, The Mackie’s of Balquhindachy, Neil Gow Steward (Reels)
17. Sunset Song
19. The Standing Stones
20. John Guthrie
21. The Rev. Gibbon (The Cromar Hymn)
22. Lament for Jean Guthrie
23. The Kinraddie Hairst
24. "Look at That Sunset"
25. Chris Guthrie
26. Tears for Me, Father
27. Love in the Howe
28. Let Tomorrow Come
29. The Harvest of Men (Slaughter on the Somme)
30. The Flooers o’ the Forest (Traditional)