It’s comforting to learn that even professional musicians sometimes have trouble setting aside time for playing. A Day A Month takes it’s title from an agreement made by Mairearad Green and Mike Vass a few years back to meet on a monthly basis to make music together.
Though both are successful composers of tunes and longer works, A Day A Month sees them going back to basics. With Green on accordion and Vass on fiddle and tenor guitar, the album consists entirely of traditional tunes drawn from their native Highlands.
There’s a winning simplicity to much of the music here. On Puirt, slow reels roll gently over long accordion bass notes, while the jerky strathspey rhythms of Megs slot neatly into Vass’ economical and precise guitar chords.
But this is far more than a run through a few tunes. Green gets to show off her considerable chops throughout, no more so than on the Reels set, fitting in countless rolls and twiddles around the brisk tunes.
One Day A Month isn’t just the sound of two performers in a room. Lurking just under the surface of much of the album are ambient chords and noises that could either be synthesised, or heavily processed fiddle and accordion.
On Jigs, what starts out as a gentle stroll soon changes tack to take on an air of dark foreboding with a heavy drumbeat. Meanwhile, Catch plays out to the whooshing of air passing through accordion bellows, amplified and edited to provide rhythmic backing.
These tasteful additions are largely there to plug the gaps and provide textural depth to the live tune playing. But occasionally they’re more prominent; on Buntata, the sound of looped guitar and echoing accordion provide a beautifully serene contrast to the gently seesawing tune.
Elsewhere on A Day A Month, the embellishments are more subtle. But the clean and uncluttered arrangements are what gives both the tunes and the duo’s instrumental talent a chance to shine.
With any luck, Green and Vass will be able to continue their monthly get-togethers. If so, the results will almost definitely be worth hearing.Nick Brook
Released on CD and Download on Buie Records on 7 September 2017. Mixed and mastered by Iain Hutchison.
9. Miss Muir