SKERRYVORE – World Of Chances (Tyree Records tYREE03CD)

I was really looking forward to this, Skerryvore’s fourth album. Unfortunately their major selling-point of upfront Highland bagpipes that played a major part of the overall sound on their previous recording has been usurped by the more rustic charms of Daniel Gillespie’s accordion and Craig Espie’s fiddle. OK, so the fiddle and accordion were always part of the make-up but I’m not sure about them playing such a pivotal role. Cast your mind back to a time when The Bluebells and Proclaimers were king of the swingers, Skerryvore would have fit as snugly as a rawlplug round a screw right alongside them. With Barry Caulfield (bass), Fraser West (drums) and Alec Dalglish on vocals, guitars and mandolin and guest producer Alan Scobie on keyboards and percussion in general the sound is pleasant but for me at least rarely reaches the peaks of the band’s previous outing. If, however you’re looking for a ‘festival’ band then songs such as the opening track “Put Your Hands Up”, the Big Country sounding “Magic Numbers” or the goodtime Zydeco styled “The Last Time” could have you swaying hypnotically along with your mates in a sweaty marquee. I’m sorry I couldn’t have given this recording a more positive review but then again, perhaps next time?

PETE FYFE

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Artist’s website: www.skerryvore.com

Mariel Vandersteel’s Debut Fiddle album Hickory…

For roots music to work, it needs to well up from a deep sense of love for the tradition. On the debut album, Hickory, from Boston fiddler Mariel Vandersteel, you can sense this love of the music in every beat. Each tune, drawn from old-time and Norwegian fiddle styles, has the mark of a musical memory. Perhaps a night of music among friends, or a fiddle lesson in Norway, or even a moment alone under a pine tree with her fiddle. You can hear the joy she takes in her music, and it helps that she’s a deft and subtle fiddler, able to draw the kind of emotion out of instrumental music that you’d expect from a song. She’s also a master at finding common ground between two traditions. Inspired by the beautiful harmonies of the Norwegian hardanger fiddle, she found a connection to the drone-heavy syncopations of Southern old-time fiddling. On Hickory, she effortlessly blends the two traditions together, reveling in the rich, acoustic tones of true folk music. Her fiddling lies somewhere between the old fjords of Norway and the ancient Blue Ridge Mountains.

Hickory is a product of Boston’s vibrant roots music scene, and it shows both in the music and in the friends that Mariel brings along with her. Respected guitarist Jordan Tice anchors the accompaniment on the album, while noted instrumentalists like Scottish harpist Maeve Gilchrist, mandolinist Dominick Leslie and bassist Sam Grisman of the Deadly Gentlemen, fiddler Tristan Clarridge of the Bee Eaters and Crooked Still, and guest fiddler Duncan Wickel contribute to the lush arrangements of the album. Throughout, Mariel’s fiddling shines like a polished gem, at turns racing through an old-time tune like the title track “Hickory,” or spinning gently along, as in the tune she wrote called “Sitting on the Ridge.” Mysterious old Norwegian tunes rub shoulders here with new compositions from Keith Murphy and Dirk Powell, compositions from Mariel herself, and old-time tunes inspired by sources like John Hartford and Foghorn Stringband.

Hickory is an inspiring testament to the power of the old tunes, and the new tunes that we continue to write. This is proof positive that traditional fiddling holds the same power today that it did hundreds of years ago. Hickory is an album of music with its roots deep in the past and its branches reaching into a new century.

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LE VENT DU NORD – Symphonique (TRCD 3029)

Now, here’s a band that, although ‘folk’ based aren’t too worried to put a slightly commercial twist to their performance. Incorporating a bit of jazz and with the help of a (predominantly) strings based orchestra this is a seriously well produced recording. With the component parts of the band Nicolas Boulerice (hurdy-gurdy), Olivier Demers (fiddle), Simon Beaudry (guitar) and Rejean Brunet (accordion) and the addition of Tom Myron’s orchestral arrangements Le Vent Du Nord stray into territory previously explored by the likes of Shaun Davey and Bill Whelan. Not hoping to sound rude, this is the kind of grand statement I enjoy listening to (preferably armed with a decent set of headphones!). Hailing from Quebec and with the vocals sung in French you might think this would be a distraction to an anglophile like me but when the performance is presented with such passion the language barrier is soon forgotten. OK, so I might not understand a word of it but the driving determination of these musicians/singers has to be admired and when you’re given free reign to indulge (if that’s the right word?) this wildly expansive sound proves very impressive! There’s no getting away from it…if you thought you might not enjoy a recording you can’t understand lyrically…think again and you’ll find yourself invigorated and with a beaming smile on your face!

PETE FYFE

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Artist Web link: http://leventdunord.com/en/the-band/

THE CARRIVICK SISTERS – FROM THE FIELDS

The Carrivick Sisters are twins Laura and Charlotte Carrivick from South Devon. Both are skilled multi-instrumentalists and between them they play a variety of bluegrass-associated instruments – guitar, mandolin, banjo, dobro and fiddle. Though just 21 years old, Laura and Charlotte are already accomplished songwriters, fine individual singers, and they harmonise hauntingly, as often only siblings can, their beguiling voices blending together irresistibly. Although their principle influence is bluegrass, their music also has a strong folk influence, with many of their original songs inspired by their local landscape and stories.

The Carrivick Sisters are experienced performers, having played all over the UK, in Europe, and in Canada. They have released three previous CDs – My Own Two Feet (2006), Better Than 6 Cakes (2007) and Jupiter’s Corner (2009) and have just completed their fourth album, From The Fields.

Produced and recorded by Joe Rusby (brother of Kate) at Pure Records Studio, From the Fields comprises eleven originals; ten songs and one instrumental, and one traditional song ‘Early, Early In The Spring’ and features contributions from guest musicians: John Breese (Banjo), BJ Cole (Pedal Steel), Eleanor Cross (Double Bass), Matt Crum (Melodeon) and David Kosky (Guitar),

The Carrivick Sisters first started performing as a duo in 2006, originally as buskers before starting to play more and more proper gigs, turning professional when they left school in 2007. As well as performing as ‘The Carrivick Sisters’, Laura and Charlotte have also played with a number of other bands – Blue South, Miles Apart, Banjo Accelerator; Kick Up the Grass and currently ‘Andsome and Some.

In 2007 they won the South West Busker’s and Street Entertainer’s Competition, gaining themselves their first spot at Glastonbury Festival. In 2008 Laura achieved 2nd place at the RockyGrass Fiddle Contest in America. More recently, The Carrivick Sisters were finalists in the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards 2010.

I am very impressed by The Carrivick Sisters, one of the best young duos I’ve heard. The girls sing and play as one and their work is characterised by great musicality. They are not only very talented instrumentalists and singers but they write really good songs as well.” Ralph McTell

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Cheyenne Brown – Parallel Latitudes

Alaskan harpist Cheyenne Brown’s beautifully packaged new album “Parallel Latitudes” is a project which aims to highlight connections between music of her homeland, her adopted home of Scotland and sources further a field.

Jigs, reels and tunes are presented with an eclectic mix of accompanying instruments ranging from dobra to banjo, tabla to bodhran. Traditional airs are given inventive settings and juxtaposed against atmospheric melodies with Cheyenne’s own compositions “Seals at Rhu” and “Ruth’s Recovery” showing that she is a musical force to be reckoned with as well as a harpist of great dexterity.

“Parallel Latitudes” is an accomplished enterprise which showcases not only a highly talented soloist and her band but also the wide ranging capabilities of the traditional harp particularly on the improvisatory title track.

Cheyenne’s harp is supported by Seylan Baxter on cello, Jon Bews on fiddle, Dave Currie on dobro, Dave Boyd on percussion, Jon Bews on fiddle, Hardeep Deerhe on tabla and Anna Massie on banjo. “Parallel Latitudes” has been nominated for the Roots Album of the Year at the Scottish Music Awards.

Janet M. Roe

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