For the best part of twenty years now, Blazin’ Fiddles have been world leaders in the vibrant Scottish fiddle scene. With two new fiddlers added to the line-up, Rua Macmillan and Kristan Harvey, North sees them in as fine form as ever.
The opener, Shetland Night, is as good an example of their exciting sound as any. With piano and guitar giving a solid foundation, the group are free to explore the possibilities provided by having four fiddles. There is a real emphasis early in the album on creating a virtuosic, dance-like feel, and they achieve this brilliantly.
Although they are undoubtedly incredibly quick-fingered, they never lose sight of the basics, and a beautiful tone and gorgeous harmonies are maintained throughout. This is particularly obvious when they slow the tempo for tracks such as Gamekeeper’s, a lovely tune written by fiddler Jenna Reid. Perhaps the highlight of the slow melodies is Java, a heart-wrenchingly beautiful air, which shows off how stunning four fiddles in close harmony can sound.
Braehead Cottage is a particular delight, with a fantastic rhythmic basis from pianist Angus Lyon and guitarist Anna Massie making it almost impossible not to jig along to. Another in this vein is Pat the Budgie, which also gives Lyon an excuse to show off his talent, with the piano taking a turn at the melody.
Lyon is also a formidable composer, and the following track is his gorgeous Taigh Sia, one of the most emotional on the album. This leads into the toe-tapping finale, Archie, which is a collection of six furious strathspeys. One of these is written by founder Bruce MacGregor, who on the strength of this marvellous album can certainly be proud of what his group has achieved.Will Wilkins
Released on Blazin’ Fiddles Records on 23rd November 2015
1. Shetland Night
2. Arran Ceilidh
4. Braehead Cottage
5. Catch and Kiss
7. Uist Dance
9. Pat the Budgie
10. Taigh Sia