Orkney Folk Festival's Fiddle Gathering is pretty much what is says on the tin, a live recording of around 20 fiddlers and other musicians from the 2015 Orkney Folk Festival performance at Stromness Town Hall. The fiddle has of course been at the heart of the Islands' traditional music culture for centuries and the performers here span the generations from students to iconic stalwarts.
Fiddle Gathering is the fifth incarnation of the ongoing festival 'Gathering' project, each year bringing together an expansive cast of musicians, all co-ordinated in superb style by musical director and fiddler Douglas Montgomery (The Chair, Saltfishforty). The project was established in 2011 and has evolved each year since to include an expanding range of performers from Orkney and beyond, who together have also toured to great acclaim at Celtic Connections and other Scottish festivals.
Built around a 'house band' including Montgomery, Jen Austin and Kristian Harvey of emerging Orkney fiddle band Fara, Billy Peace on accordion and Montgomery's Saltfishforty colleague Brian Cromarty on mandolin and banjo, a dozen or so special guests including Billy Jolly (Hullion) on harmonica, and renowned Orkney fiddlers Tommy Mainland, Fionn McArthur, Colin Pirie and Kenny Ritch (The Chair, Ben the Hoose) also contribute.
The two Fara tracks stand out, an unlikely pizzicato-heavy arrangement of Joe South's Games People Play and a set of tunes Billy's Short Leg/Thunderhead/Across the Rooftops, the young, all-female band injecting a vibrancy and energy perhaps missing from some of the more sedate contributions. Pirie's lively fiddle on a set of three Hugh Inkster tunes Inganess/The Strynd/El Adhem is also a delight, while Peace's box accordion on the opening set J.D. Peace of Shoreside/Wissahicken Drive/Mass Pike also sets the scene nicely. The house band close the album with a foot-tapping rendition of the Saltfishforty tunes Creelman/Normaway Inn/The Reconciliation.
Overall, a delightful, well-produced package, crammed with skilled musicianship, which amply captures the atmosphere of the live performance.
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