RYAN YOUNG – Ryan Young (Ryan Young Music RYM01CD)

Ryan YoungRyan Young has already begun garnering what are doubtless only the first of many awards and accolades for his superb fiddle-playing. His self-titled debut album simply brims over with originality and talent: a little sonic jewel. That his fans went out and secured the talents of Grammy-winning Jesse Lewis to produce the album is another huge clue that there is something very special about Young.

Seeking to showcase some of his native Scotland’s less well-known tunes, Young has compiled an album of traditional tune sets in a way that honours them whilst also giving them a complete reworking. There is no slavish homage to tradition here, rather a fearless reshaping of the melody into new stories, where the tunes merely serve as jumping-off points. In this sense, it’s an almost jazz-like approach, circling the melody whilst riffing off exploring new possibilities and opening the sound out in unexpected directions.

Some interesting combinations of tunes are melded seamlessly together by boldness and careful artistry. There’s a key lowered here, a rhythm slowed there, there’s a sidelong glide up to the melody before dancing away again in a birl of slurred notes There’s also a distinct fondness for minor keys – and moody majors – meaning that more than a touch of melancholy sweeps over the album.

On rather better-known tunes such as ‘The Highland Laddie’ it becomes clear quite how distinct Young’s vision is. His interpretation alters the listener’s emotional response to the tune. Somehow it feels intuitive and natural whilst, at the same time, he skilfully manipulates the melodic variations, pushing at boundaries.

While Young’s playing may owe much to the Irish County Clare tradition – the fluid bowing, smudgy grace notes and the lyrical, often slower-paced renditions – it’s also proudly Scottish with its snaps and even an occasionally almost syncopated rhythm (especially as underscored by Leo Forde’s brightly swishing guitar in the second part of the first track). Both Forde and James Ross, on piano, provide restrained, sympathetic and elegant accompaniments throughout, perfectly enhancing the tunesets.

Two of the tracks featured here are Young’s own compositions. They showcase yet another side to his talent, one which will hopefully be featured more in future as his body of work grows. Despite his extensive study and achievement in his field already, a sense of modest self-deprecation comes across in the highly informative set of additional notes that he’s written for the album, and which are available on his website. However, there’s no doubt that he is the real deal and someone very interesting to watch as his career matures.

Su O’Brien

Artist website: http://www.ryanyoung.scot/

Ryan with Jenn Butterworth at Celtic Connections 2017:

Ryan Young – award-winning Scottish fiddler announces debut album

Ryan Young

This self-titled debut album from award-winning fiddler Ryan Young brings inventive twists to old and forgotten tunes. Produced and engineered by triple Grammy award-winning Jesse Lewis, this international collaboration is set to break new ground with its precise capture of Ryan’s unique sound. Offering original compositions alongside his reinventions of traditional tunes, Ryan digs deep into his Scottish roots, while borrowing from Irish fiddle styles.

There are stories at the core, ranging from melancholy airs to upbeat jigs and reels, many of which have not been played by anyone else in recent times. These glimpses into Scotland’s past lives echo startlingly the fervour of the present, uncovering themes as relevant now as they were then. By melding styles across regions and ages, Ryan delivers uplifting rhythmic drive, depth of dynamics and a bold new heartbeat for Scottish traditional music.

Voted ‘Up and Coming Artist of the Year’ at MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards in December 2016, some memorable live performances have consolidated Ryan’s reputation in his home country. Ryan has now shared the bill with two of his musical influences: He supported fiddle player Martin Hayes at Celtic Connections this January, having previously been accompanied by guitarist Dennis Cahill onstage at Feakle Festival, Co Clare.

A finalist from BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Music Awards in both 2015 and 2016, and a Celtic Connections Danny Kyle Award winner, Ryan has performed on the BBC Hogmanay Show and at T in the Park for around 80,000 people, sharing the main stage with Paolo Nutini and Phil Cunningham.

Recorded and produced by triple Grammy award-winner Jesse Lewis in the beautiful sounding Opera Theatre at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, it is one of the first traditional albums to be recorded in the UK in high resolution DSD format. This album places Ryan among a list of world-class musicians who have worked with Jesse, including The Silk Road Ensemble, Yo-Yo Ma, Bela Fleck, Jan Vogler and Brooklyn Rider. Ryan is accompanied by James Ross on piano and Leo Forde on guitar.

Jesse Lewis: “Ryan’s playing is so soulful, beautiful and intoxicating, and his musical pacing is way beyond his years. It’s been a pleasure to work with someone so clearly passionate about, and dedicated to, his art. There’s so much talent in this young man already, I can’t wait to see what the future has in store.”

Ryan Young: “If I’d been told five years ago that I’d be recording my debut album with Jesse, I wouldn’t have believed it. The past year has been extraordinary and I feel I’ve grown immensely as a musician. Jesse has spurred me on to find new possibilities in my music and helped me find confidence I didn’t know I had.”

‘Uniquely graceful and expressive playing. A future star of the Scottish fiddle world’ – Aidan O’Rourke (Lau)

‘Ryan’s playing brings an intense and unique approach to the burgeoning Scottish music scene’ – Ross Ainslie (Treacherous Orchestra)

Artist’s website: http://www.ryanyoung.scot/

‘The Irish Lass’ – with James Ross

MICHELLE BURKE – Step Into My Parlour (Kilcronat Records KLC002CD)

StepIntoMyParlourIt’s probably a dreadful cliché to describe this album as “beguiling” but that is exactly what it is. The style stems from Michelle’s childhood memories of Sunday singsongs after mass at her grandparents’ house and the songs here are the same eclectic mix that would have been sung then.

James Ross provides the piano accompaniments which we suppose would have been integral to the proceedings and Michelle is joined by a number of star guests including Cathal McConnell, Anna Massie, Brendan Power and Heidi Talbot. Despite the stellar cast the album retains the feeling of the front parlour with everyone on their best behaviour – which our imaginations can contrast with the saloon bar down the street.

The opening track, ‘Eileen O’Grady’, is a song of courting that was once in the repertoire of Josef Locke and it’s followed by a real heartstring-tugging ballad, ‘Dan O’Hara’, written by the remarkable Delia Murphy, or at least recorded by her. This isn’t the place to recount her story but I urge you to look her up on the interweb. The blend of traditional Irish songs like ‘A Kiss In The Morning Early’ and ‘My Boy Billy’ – rarely heard these days – and popular songs like ‘Twilight Time’ from The Platters is topped off by Aunty Peggy’s party-piece, ‘Whooped And Died’, on which Michelle is joined by members of her family, reinforcing the sense of time and place.

You might find Step Into My Parlour a bit Val Doonican and perhaps it is but he too was a product of the same times and places and sometimes nostalgia can be a wonderful thing.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.michelleburkemusic.com

The official promo video:

JAMES ROSS – Chasing The Sun (Trinkie Records TR001)

Sitting here in my flat with the gradually diminishing lights of the neighbourhood dancing like a demented ‘Tinkerbell’ from Peter Pan at 02:26am can’t do much for my health…or so my doctor keeps telling me. Still, here I am and at least I’ve got the sounds of James Ross for company. Perhaps in another world I’d be somewhere like the Shetlands for if this album can’t provide that inner sense of tranquillity I don’t know what else can. Opening with the starkly brooding beauty of “Beyond The Strath” the single piano note introduction sets the tone of what is to unfold and by glancing at the accompanying sleeve photographs courtesy of Catriona Murray you get a real sense of time of space. Lounging around in a comfy arm chair with my headphones on (so as not to disturb “she who must be obeyed”) and my feet up I’m quite happy being transported to the majestic battle scarred hills and water lapped lochs created by Ross’s imaginative soundscape. In sculpting this audio image he is aided and abetted by various wind and string instruments whose textures emphasise the ever evolving time signatures in a showcase of creative thinking extending the links of jazz sensitivities with a nod to traditional themes. Evoking memories of Michael O’Suilleabhain yet miles away from the days of Russ Conway’s “Sidesaddle” in his own way James ‘entertains’ albeit on a slightly more highbrow note.