It’s been seven years since Fiddler’s Bid duo Chris Stout and Catriona McKay released White Nights. They haven’t wasted the time of course: two albums with other collaborators and lots of touring have brought them to this point and Bare Knuckle takes up pretty much where they left off in 2010. Just fiddle and harp with most of the material being original compositions – the exception being Heitar Villa-Lobos’ ‘Bachianas Brasileiras No 4 Prelúdio’ which closes the set.
The inspirations for the music come mostly from people and places. The opener, ‘Seeker Reaper’, comes from Loch Fyne, or rather from a long poem by George Campbell Hay celebrating a fishing boat named Sireadh in which you’ll find the line: “she’s a stem-teerer, keel-teerer, seeker, finder, reaper”. There’s a whole story in this tune and it is a gorgeous piece of music. Chris writes about ‘Tingaholm’, the seat of the ancient parliament of Shetland and together they meld two tunes about Moscow and pianist Barry Douglas, a man who combines a love of classical and traditional music in his work. Catriona wrote ‘Louise’s Waltz’ for a friend who died too young; Chris’s fiddle sounding as mournful as wind in the trees with Catriona’s harp weeping beneath it. Together they honour Jonathan Morton, leader of the Scottish Ensemble.
Other tunes celebrate moments in time. ‘Time To Retreat’ is just that and ‘Stealthy Schooner’ tells of time given over to oneself, undisturbed by the world and I’m coming to suspect that the title track is about themselves and the creative tensions between two musicians working together. Although their music is rooted in the tradition, Chris and Catriona continue to push the envelope in both their composition and playing and their albums are always a delight.
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