It’s been ten years since Douglas Montgomery and Brian Cromerty, jointly known as Saltfishfory, recorded their first CD. To mark this decade in the music business they have released their first live album, a joyful celebration of traditional Orkney songs and tunes sprinkled with a dash of blues, Americana and East European folk music.
The duo are joined on this recording by two bandmates from their eight-piece big band, The Chair, Erik Laughton (percussion) and Andrew Gifford (double bass) as well as Orkney accordion legend, Billy Peace. Over fourteen tracks the band take the listener on a whistle-stop retrospective of Saltfishforty’s back catalogue with some brand new pieces thrown in for good measure.
The album starts off strongly with a lively version of the American mountain ballad Old Joe Clark, before launching into a set of three tunes collectively known as Burray. These are original tunes and are played with an earthy gutsiness and are eminently danceable.
The pace slows down for a beautiful rendition of the traditional song, Oh Dear Oh, taken from the singing of Ethel Findlater. This song, about a man rejected by a woman for not being a sailor, is sensitively sung by Cromarty.
Although Saltfishforty are best known for their interpretation of Scottish folk music their influences spread much further than their home country. Reiländer, is a great Nordic tune played with a real sense of swing whilst Short Day Blues is exactly what it says on the tin.
Another highlight is the jazzy Tabasco Twist which mentions that Scottish delicacy, the deep fried Mars bar. It’s sung and played with a tremendous sense of fun.
The album closes with another blues number, Milk Cow. It’s almost a pastiche of the genre and covers all the usual musical motifs. It also contains a fantastic bluesy fiddle solo by Montgomery.
Overall this is a great album marred only by the decision to fade out the applause at the end of each track, which distances the listener somewhat from the live experience. It would also be nice to have a little more audience noise in the background as, on occasion, they do sound a little muted.
However, Live, with special guests is an ideal way for newcomers to sample the delights of Saltfishforty. Here’s to another ten years of foot-stomping music.Stephen Witkowski
Self-released 10th July 2014
1. Old Joe Clarke
3. Oh Dear Oh
5. A Ring on her Hand
7. Lady Franklin’s
10. Short Day Blues
11. Tabasco Twist
14. Milk Cow