Commentary

Music for a Summer Morning

It’s a fine Summer morning here in the Estate Library with the windows all open to the mild breeze blowing on this yet to be hot day. I’ve got more paperwork to do than I’d like to admit, so I’ll need some music to do it by. And that music must be not too loud, not too demanding. Here’s what I’m going to play over the next few hours…

I’ll start off with Alasdair Fraser’s Dawn Dance which I think may be the finest Celtic album ever recorded. Somehow it got overlooked, which is a story in itself, but we’ll let sleeping musicians that shall not be named here by me stay that way. Let’s just say that it was such an excellent CD that some of the fiddlers here kept borrowing it from the library for extended periods of time. For more lovely music from Fraser, I’m going to segue into Skyedance’s Labyrinth which is him and an extended group of both Scottish and non-Scottish musicians making music akin to that of Nightnoise, another band fitting for this fine summer morning. But which Nightnoise would I play, you ask? The White Horse Sessions, their live album, would be my choice.

Jack really likes my next selection: ‘Yawn, another bloody brilliant album, Spring the Summer Long, from a duo, Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham, who can do no wrong. So why should you get excited? Are you completely daft, man? This is Aly Bain on fiddles and Phil Cunningham on damn near everything else (accordion, whistles, cittern, piano, keyboards, trump, mandolin) with more than capable assistance from Malcolm Stitton acoustic guitar, and bouzouki and Stuart Nisbet on acoustic guitar, dobro and pedal steel. How can you not like it? Do you ‘ave not a touch of magic in your soul?’

I think Jack has more single malt in his soul than magic, but he’s right as it’s a brilliant album. not as brilliant I think as Alasdair Fraser and Aly Bain’s Fully Rigged album but bloody fine still. As our reviewer said, ‘All you need to know is Aly Bain, the Shetland Islands’ most revered fiddler and charter member of the Boys of the Lough, is jamming with Ale Möller, Sweden’s acclaimed fretted-string master and member of Frifot. There’s not a bad cut here, but I’ll single out ‘Da Day Dawn’ which is a Winter Solstice tune, and ‘Hallingar fran Dalsland (Hallings from Dalsland) / Da Bonnie Isle O’Whalsay / Da Fashion O’Da Delting Lassies’ a set of sprightly tunes: the last of which celebrates Flash Girls, as being particularly well done!’

I’m a sucker for well-crafted Americana music, particularly the Celtic roots based kind, so I’ll be playing Crooked Still’s Still Crooked and the self-titled debut recording from The Duhks. Hmmm… I need to see what else I should listen to in this genre off the Infinite Jukebox!

I’ll finish off the morning with the very different recordings… First will be Frifot’s latest release, Flyt, which is every bit as great as anything this Swedish group has done. As one reviewer said of them, ‘If there are superstars to be named on the Swedish music scene, I would like this opportunity to nominate Lena Willemark (vocal, fiddle, viola, whistle, drone whistle), Per Gudmundson (fiddle, viola, bagpipes, vocal), and Ale Möller (octave mandola, overtone flute, cow’s horn, drone whistle, folk harp, shawm, harmonica, vocal), otherwise known as Frifot.’ Now where is the live recording of them playing in the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room when they laid over here for a week during a really bad blizzard?

Leoned Fell finishes off the music listening for me with the first Breton fiddle and piping music with good vocals that I’ve had the pleasure to hear, as it really does sound like a great time was being had by all at this fest noz. They have three recordings, all worth hearing.

Now it’s time for Elevenses. I wonder if Mrs. Ware and her staff are making those lovely yeasted rolls serve with raspberry and rhubarb jam that I’ve been fond of this late summer? Or perhaps she’ll be making poppy seed cakes using the recipe that Bilbo Baggins likes?

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