The Island Girls are Margaret Robertson, piano and fiddle, and accordionist Karen Tweed and the islands in question are Orkney where Beach Daze was recorded. Actually, Margaret is from Shetland and Karen moved to Orkney only a few years ago. Margaret isn’t terribly well-known this far south and is more famous in Scotland as the organizer of the fiddle element of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo’s Pipers Trail which tours worldwide. Karen has had a rather more diverse career, founding The Poozies and working with Roger Wilson and Kathryn Tickell among others.
Although all the music is written by Margaret and Karen, it is firmly rooted in the tradition, particularly when the composer is Margaret. There is a nice dynamic between the “formal” Shetland style that Margaret learned from the late Tom Anderson and Karen’s more adventurous inclinations. Beach Daze opens with a trio of marches written by Margaret and are rather four-square as they had to be for wedding processions but they provide a jolly start. I much prefer Margaret’s slower, sadder compositions: ‘Air For Gordon’ and ‘Mother’s Love’ are perfectly constructed pieces.
The second track is Karen’s ‘Happy Cake Break/Quite Trim, Nelson!’, a couple of jolly freewheeling tunes with Margaret playing piano in something approaching the Violet Tulloch style. She switches to fiddle for the aforementioned ‘Air For Gordon’ and is back to the piano for the bouncy waltz, ‘Pam’. In fact, my favourite moments have Margaret playing the continuo on her own compositions while Karen elaborates on the melody. The combination can be gentle or lively but it works well and there is a taste of Cape Breton in these duets. ‘Dancing In Dairsie’ is a perfect example. ‘Lighthouse Lovers/Orlando Polecat’, a couple of splendid tunes by Karen, see the accordion and fiddle working in tandem.
The final two sets are shared compositions. The first of these takes us back to the opening track and the second, while still up-tempo, feels rather more improvised. While I’m not an expert in these instruments I believe that I can detect some clever tricks in the playing. A tune book is available so you can try them out for yourselves.
Artists’ websites: www.karentweed.com / www.margaretrobertsonmusic.co.uk