Wooden Flute & Fiddle is the first duo album from Calum Stewart and Lauren MacColl, both renowned players of their respective instruments. Stewart was a founding member of Mànran, while MacColl has picked up several awards as a solo artist.
The album delivers on its Ronseal-style title - there are very subtle bouzouki and harmonium accompaniments, but the titular flute and fiddles are undoubtedly the stars. It kicks off with a strong, energetic, tune in the shape of Eoghainn Iain Alasdair, while second track The Gordons initially shows a slightly more reflective side… before Stewart and MacColl turn up the pace once again.
It may be their first album as a duo, but the pair have worked together before and it shows. The arrangements are complex and instruments are played with great skill and deftness, the stringed instruments (MacColl plays fiddle and viola) wrapping itself around the flute and vice versa. MacColl likes to experiment with unusual tunings, lighting up tracks like the shimmying Tomnahurich.
The Stewart-composed Alzen - named for the French chapel that inspired it - is measured and calm, redolent of the misty morning when the tune appeared in his head. Other highlights include Aileen’s - a joyous jig written for Stewart’s daughter that morphs into a frantic reel inspired by his native Moray - and Boys of the ’25, another set of reels, in which Stewart and MacColl both excel themselves: the meandering, punchy tunes soar and move on before you’ve had time to catch your breath.
Then, after the more sober finale of A Highland Lamentation - a traditional air arranged with grace by the duo, it’s all over. Given the depth of the material, it’s a surprise to note the album’s playing time is just over half an hour.
This is pretty full-on stuff. If ’Celtic’ isn’t your bag, or you think you might hanker for a bit of singing, then look elsewhere. But if the featured instruments are your thing, and it’s pure, unadulterated musical dexterity you’re after, then you’re unlikely to find anything to match this.Mark Dishman
Released 22 October 2012 on Make Believe Records
1. Eoghainn Iain Alasdair
2. The Gordons
4. Rise Ye Lazy Fellow
5. Stoidhle Neill Ghobha
6. Crow Road Croft
9. Boys of the ’25
10. A Highland Lamentation