ROSS COUPER + TOM OAKES – Fiddle + Guitar (Haystack Records HAYCD009)

Fiddle + GuitarI get to hear a lot of new music from Scotland these days. There are some nice people there who keep sending me records to listen to and I usually enjoy them all. Sometimes, however, I wonder if I really need another album of fiddle music and don’t ever quite reach them in the review pile. Sometimes it’s purely accidental and so it was with Fiddle + Guitar, so I apologise if I’m a little late.

Shetlander Ross Couper plays fiddle with Peatbog Faeries and if you know anything about them you’ll know that they are one of the most exciting bands that Scotland has produced. Here he really gets to show off without the constraints of band and his playing is extraordinarily free. Just listen to the series of changes at the end of Peter Morrison’s tune ‘Room 215’. Tom Oakes is also a flautist and composer who doesn’t restrict the directions his music takes and the record feels as though they were egging each on to new heights.

It’s hard to pick out top tracks. I love the excitement and dynamism of ‘Something For The Weakened’ as much as the delicate guitar introduction to the opening track ‘The Road To Loch Nam Bairneas’ which deceives the listener about what’s coming up. Tom’s composition, ‘The Last Gasp’ also brings his guitar to the fore initially to herald a delightful, contemplative tune that takes off in a slightly strange direction towards the end. Ross and Tom borrow wisely – Phil Cunningham and Annlaug Børsheim are among their sources – but the majority of the music here is original. There really isn’t a dull moment, whether it’s Ross’ jazzy flights of fancy or Tom adding the folk equivalent of a bass riff.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘Shetland Swing’ – live: