CHRIS LESLIE – Fiddle Back (Paws Records PAWS003)

Fiddle BackChris Leslie really doesn’t need any introduction from me so let’s get straight down to business. Fiddle Back is his contribution to lockdown; thirteen tracks recorded entirely solo at home using a mere dozen instruments and some samples. Chris obviously has an impressive studio set-up at home but uses it sensitively, letting go magnificently only on ‘The Sea Spirit’ but skilfully manipulating multi-tracking and overdubbing for variety.

The album opens with an original, ‘The Traveller’s Song’, which evokes the British countryside and, in particular, the freedom it affords in normal times. Of course, Chris wants to be out there but at least he can go in his imagination. He follows this with two tune sets, ‘The Flight/The Irish Devil’ and ‘Old Morpeth’, the latter a particularly jolly duet of fiddle and mandolin. The second song is ‘A Sailor’s Life’ and I can’t help but wonder if Chris thought of its role in Fairport’s career when he chose it. No extended guitar workout now but a simple song sensitively sung.

After ‘The Sea Spirit’ come ‘St Anne’s Reel’ and ‘Sandy River Belle’, a tune from the Blue Ridge Mountains. Banjo being one instrument that Chris doesn’t play he goes the other way, slowing the tune down a little and building it on a satisfyingly smooth guitar with old-timey style fiddle emphasising the first note of each phrase. There’s a little twist at the end that may catch you out.

In ‘Song For Andreas’, Chris tells the story of Andreas Pile who, in 1925, made the Hardanger fiddle he now plays. Andreas suffered tragedy losing his wife and only child and seemingly turned to instrument making for solace. He thanks Björn Sverre Kristensen for researching his story and finding the portrait that adorns the inner sleeve and quite rightly. It really is no use asking Mr. Google about him. ‘Curly-Headed Ploughboy’ is based on hand percussion and a triangle that sounds like spoons – unless Chris plays spoons as well as everything else. It’s a lovely tune and is very good for cheering oneself up.

Two more originals, ‘Angels Of The North And South/Elvish’ follow and Chris allows himself freedom to experiment again. ‘Gwyr Ha Gwynn Ha Glas’ is another of his pastoral songs set this time in Cornwall and ‘Resia Valley Melody’ is a tune from the Italian Alps which may have a Slavic origin emphasised with a strong beat . Finally we have ‘Fiddle Back’, a haunting semi-classical piece that really allows Chris to show his versatility as a player.

Fiddle Back is available now, direct from Chris’ website. You should hasten there without delay.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

There are no videos from the album but get a load of this: