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Reviews

Iain MacFarlaneIain MacFarlane
Album: Gallop To Callop
Label: Old Laundry
Tracks: 12
Website: http://www.oldlaundryproductions.com

Iain is a truly gifted fiddle player and has been named as one of Scotland's finest instrumentalists following his work with Iain MacDonald on the album 'First Harvest'. He is also well known for his role in 'Blazin' Fiddles'. This album, 'Gallop to Callop' is his solo first recording, drawing on years of exposure to traditional music and respected performers in the genre.

Macfarlane's fiddle sings through this album with a distinctive, almost throaty voice. He draws out a colour and richness perhaps more often associated with the violin's bulkier cousin, the viola. The precision that underpins Macfarlane's technique makes this a joy to listen to, and it is evident in a number of ways. His intonation is remarkably accurate, the articulation from the bow is clean and controlled and his ornamentation, from trebles to turns, is satisfyingly neat and clear. Macfarlane's use of these different ornaments is sufficient to put his own stamp on this collection, but it never feels over-done and the melodies still feel free to speak for themselves.

So often it is the accompaniment that helps to reaffirm the mood of a piece, and the range of accompaniment and textures on this album is rich and varied. As an example, the piano at the opening of 'St Fillan's' gives the track the feeling of gentle hymn, and with some syncopation this begins to lift the track and drive it forward to something altogether more uplifting. The harmony provided by the piano really lights up the melody and gives a sense of progression as the track builds.

In 'All Winter' the piano once again does a wonderful job of adding colour and depth to the fiddle melody. Bass chords ring out like distant thunder under a frenetic melody in a minor mode before a wonderful lift to a bright major key. In contrast, the clear ring of the beautifully recorded Harp arpeggios is the perfect backdrop for the gentle, lilting fiddle melody of 'Isobel's Tune'. Opening with a lamenting figure, the low string chords that rise to the surface accentuate the bittersweet tune.

For a striking change of texture, the accompaniment in 'Am Bruadair' paints a bleak picture as drones pedal on in a series of bare chords that stress the tragic quality of the air. With vibrato used as a sparing ornament, the tone of the violin blends with the sustained chords culminating in some eerie double stops.

Lee Cuff