THE FRETLESS – Live From The Art Farm (own label TFCD004)

Live From The Art FarmThe Fretless is a string quartet – two fiddles, viola and cello although Karrnnel Sawitsky and Ben Plotnick double up on viola and fiddle so they don’t play strictly by the rules. Their latest album, Live From The Art Farm, was actually recorded in Sean Boyd’s studio but live from the floor on three microphones with an audience to cheer them on.

The album’s material is mostly traditional although Donald Shaw and Joe Liddy get a look in and Sawitsky, Plotnick and Trent Freeman contribute one tune each. “We’ve made a record of our favourite pub tunes” says Freeman although the music is adapted to the group’s progressive style. You’d think twice before asking to sit in with these guys and ‘The Killavil Fancy’ is typical of them taking a tune and running off with it. The key to their sound is cellist Eric Wright who mostly plays the defining beat. Without bass or percussion, Eric holds everything together although he occasionally gets to play something in a more melodic vein such as ‘Dawning Of The Day’.

It’s difficult to pick out favourites but ‘The Killavel Fancy’ grabbed my attention immediately as did ‘Bixie’s’, the second part written by Sawitsky, and Ben Plotnick’s ‘Holton Alan Moore’s’ which I suspect is more like The Fretless’ natural style than the traditional material they concentrate on here. You can hear how hard it is for them to contain their desire to take a tune off to infinity and beyond and as the album progresses you feel the energy levels rise.

Live From The Art Farm isn’t your run of the mill Celtic fiddle music nor is it like any string quartet you’ve ever heard.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Macleod’s Farewell/Palmer’s Gate’ – live at the Art Farm: