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The Barber SistersThe Barber Sisters
Album: Lover's Leap
Label: Thorpe Cloud Music
Tracks: 10

I first saw The Barber Sisters at the Shepley Spring Festival in 2015 so it was a real treat to find that they were not only back on the bill in 2016 by popular demand, but also releasing their début album.

The three sisters (Ellie, Isobel and Lydia), still in their teens, are mainly influenced by the Scottish fiddle tradition despite hailing from Derbyshire. They come with a good pedigree, too, having made the short list for 2015 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award.

The nine sets and one track on the album have been carefully chosen as a showcase of the girls undeniable talent as musicians, and they've made the brave decision to avoid simply reproducing the standards people would be familiar with; only the Rayburn set is largely written by the well know Trad. Instead they've sought out, then arranged themselves, tunes from the brightest and best fiddlers at the forefront of modern traditional music including Lauren MacColl (RANT, Salt House), Jenna Reid (Blazin' Fiddles), Rua Macmillan (Blazin' Fiddles and FATEA award winner) and Ross Ainslie amongst many others. It's also very encouraging to see the title set, Lover's Leap, written by Isobel and Lydia.

I overheard a comment at the album launch "This is folk music as the Bronte sisters would have played it", which is both true and wide of the mark at the same time. The Barber Sisters are classically trained violinists and this gives their playing a smoothness and control, which allows them to interpret the music to its fullest extent. The hornpipes on Track 4 - called "Hornpipes" - are wonderfully jaunty whilst the lament on Far O'er Struy is suitably solemn without ever being turgid. All of this combines with their total understanding of each other, being sisters, as the three instruments weave in and out and each member of the trio is more than capable of taking the lead. But, when the need arises, they happily deliver good, driving fiddle tunes, as on The Ox set. This is a trio who would be equally at home at a classical concert, a festival or folk club.

The album is well produced and professional, with good photos taken on and around Lover's Leap to set the scene for the music inside. The running time is over 50 minutes so it can make a pleasant backdrop to a journey, or be dipped in and out of. The album can be ordered from their website, in hard format only. If I have one very minor criticism it's that the index list hasn't been completed. It isn't a problem when listening to the CD, but makes the burning longer.

This is an exciting début album and a worthy addition to any collection of modern fiddle music. It may also be the easiest way to get to know the trio in the near term, as they are all at University for the next couple of years studying chemistry. I hope, in the future, they will be able to leave the lab on occasions to continue charming and delighting their audience, which will surely grow.

Incidentally, the Lover's Leap of the title is a large overhanging rock in Dovedale. It was so named after young woman threw herself off it having heard that her loved one had died in battle. She was saved by her skirt billowing out like a parachute in the wind and getting caught in branches, which broke her fall. She then found out that her sweetheart was still very much alive. A Folk Tale with a happy ending!

Tony Birch