Songlines, Issue #136
A Glint O' Scottish Fiddle
Piano and Patsy: the Scots fiddler keeps it simple.
"Co-founder of Breabach, Patsy Reid is one of the finest fiddle players working in the Scottish scene today. A Glint O' Scottish Fiddle is Reid's third studio album, and a beautiful piece of work it is too. it is a pared-down affair - just Reid and pianist Alistair Iain Paterson - which provides plenty of opportunity to focus purely on the tunes themselves.
Opening with some scrumptious traditional tunes, including the sweet 'Strathearn', the album meanders pleasantly through a mix of traditional and more modern tunes. Mike MacDougall's 'Father Eugene's Welcome to Cape North' picks up the pace with its spiky set of traditional tunes, before settling into Gráinne Brady's 'The quartz Jig', which itself merges beautifully into a set by Phil Cunningham and Donald Shaw. 'Niel Gow's Wife' is a striking lament that precedes the final track, the much missed Angus R. Grant's '2:50 to Vigo' - a rather quieter and more tender version of the original.
Do yourself a favour: grab a wee dram, a seat near a cosy fire, and savour this sumptuous beautiful duet between fiddle and piano."
A Glint O' Scottish Fiddle
Classy Trad Records CTREC003
After a couple of superb albums establishing her credentials as a composer, innovator and performer par excellence, Patsy Reid is returning to her Perthshire roots for this recording of traditional Scottish fiddle tunes. Following in the bowstrokes of both Gow and Skinner, A Glint O' Scottish Fiddle contains mainly old Scots fiddle tunes from the East Coast tradition: Miss Drummond Of Perth, The Scolding Wives Of Abertarff, Mrs Graham Of Balgowan and many more with less obvious geographic associations. Compositions by J D Michie of Brechin, James Hill of Dundee, Charles Grant of Knockandu, as well as Gow and Skinner, sit alongside pieces too ancient to have a known composer. There's a nod to the piping schools with G S MacLennan's march Pipe Major John Stewart, and a fine tribute to the late great Lochaber fiddler Angus R Grant with his popular melody 2:50 To Vigo. Patsy also finds space for a Cape Breton quickstep and reel, and a set of modern jigs, but the core of this collection comes from the golden age of Perthshire fiddling over a century ago.
Bow and fingers tease out strathspeys, reels, marches and more. Ms Reid delivers the classic strathspey Strathearn with exquisite tenderness, easing into a set of powerful old reels. Neil Gow's Farewell To Whisky always brings a tear to my eye - more for the title than the melody - and here it's followed by the showpiece hornpipe, The Marquis Of Waterford, which gives us a chance to appreciate the delicacy of Patsy's fiddle technique before she launches into a lovely Jerry Holland reel. There are no low points at all on A Glint O' Scottish Fiddle, but I will mention one more highlight, the wonderful Scott Skinner reel The Auld Wheel, finely seasoned and served up by an exceptional fiddler. Accompanied only by the deft piano of Alistair Iain Paterson, Patsy Reid has produced an enchanting CD here. Perhaps Perthshire is entering a new golden age of fiddle music.
A Glint o’ Scottish Fiddle is the third studio album from accomplished Scottish fiddle player, and Breabach founder, Patsy Reid. It’s a composition of both deft fiddle and more meandering, introspective pieces, all of estimable quality.
Accompanied by Alistair Iain Paterson on the piano, Reid weaves her way through a collection of Scottish fiddle tunes, both contemporary and traditional.
The album opens with a set of five traditional tunes, beginning with the gentle Strathearn. It’s a nice introduction to the subtle emotiveness of Reid’s playing, beginning as meandering and wistful and then evolving into something warmer, though still with that wistful edge.
The addition of Paterson’s piano is often a very welcome one. It is a relatively soft touch, never replacing Reid as the driving force. An uncontroversial choice but probably the better one, since any time spent focused on Paterson’s playing (lovely as it is) would detract from the real star of the show, Reid.
Paterson does add some welcome rhythm and depth however. The pairing and interplay between the two throughout the album sets A Glint o’ Scottish Fiddle apart from other trad fiddle albums. The ninth set particularly, comprised of Niel Gow’s Wife, Miss Whiteford, Mrs Graham of Balgowan, and Miss Grant, features a veritable dance between the fiddle and piano parts.
The short of it is - Reid is really a very good fiddle player, as if there was any doubt, and is also a dab hand at collating complementary tunes into evocative sets. There’s perhaps room for the emotional peaks to be higher and the troughs to be lower, but there’s something to be said for subtlety and it is nevertheless a fine release.
The Patsy Reid Band
The Black Swan
February 12, 2015
Scottish fiddler Patsy Reid forged her reputation as a co-founder of Breabach, but took her leave from this thriving folk combo in 2011. Now, she's leading her own new-ish small outfit, deliberately treading the familiar furrow of the traditional folk circuit, keeping it intimate for this well-filled upstairs gig at The Black Swan. Even though this weekly club will regularly play host to some of the music's outlaw types, it's still notable when a band appears that features a drumkit and an electric keyboard, even if the former is minimalist in nature and the latter spends its time impersonating an upright piano. This gig was part of a brief UK spurt, before Reid went off on tour with tablaman Zakir Hussain. She began her southward journey that morning in Perth, picking up the other players in Glasgow, on the way. The four-piece set-up was completed by Ewan MacPherson, who switches between mandolin and acoustic guitar.
The night began with a few songs from emceee Eddie Affleck, providing suitably Scottish support, and solo singer John Cherry, recounting tales of the ocean wave, and selecting "My Darling Clementine" as his slightly dark delivery, pre-Valentine's Day. The Patsy Reid portion of the evening was dominated by tunes lifted from The Brightest Path (2014), her acclaimed solo album. The material was very varied in mood, ranging from introverted soundscapes, spread with Signy Jakobsdóttir's delicate mbira (thumb piano) frissons, edged with electronic effects, or her hissing cymbal-strokes and xylophone chimes, but often rising up into a following number that fully obeyed the road rules of a racing reel. Keyboardist Alistair Iain Paterson was equally at home with either dappling or dancing. Though Reid's core fiddle sound is simultaneously buried in folk earth and soaring high above it, her bandmates help to create a soundscape that's not usually found in the music, having more in common with a jazz texture, or even, at times, possessing a rock band dynamic, albeit reined in on the volume level front. A hushed outcrop of potentially rollin' boulders.
Paterson's sole use of harmonium was made early on, during "A Precious Place," so he then made the wise move of shifting it to the back of the room, giving the quartet more room to manoeuvre. Mournful suspension was bedrocked by light cajón thrums, Jakobsdóttir revealing yet another element of her varied percussion spread. MacPherson skittered with lightning precision at the high range of his mandolin strings, as Reid reeled flightily through another set of dusty old tunes that she's revived and revivified. Centuries-old melodies reincarnated with a modern band sound. Returning for the second set, she opened completely solo, gently joined by piano, then burnished cymbal spits, with a rare instance of slide mandolin entering later. Such a swing between forward romping and soft introspection served this crew very well, even if the odd vocal number revealed a more fusty, plummier aspect of the repertoire.
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“As their drummer Tom Bancroft put it, Scotland's Trio AAB came to Celtic Connections "from a faraway country called Jazz". They've always represented that genre's least chin-stroking territory, however, and this reprise of a previous collaboration with Indian violinists Ganesh and Kumaresh Rajagopolan, plus percussionist Acanthi R. Krishnan, in fact embodied the very model of a Celtic Connections show – especially twinned with Scottish fiddler Patsy Reid’s sparkling first-half set, and taking place in the world's only church designed by that internationalist visionary, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The Indian duo first took the stage by themselves, delivering an astonishingly virtuosic and electrifying display of carnatic artistry. The sounds rooted in these traditions can seem dauntingly foreign to Celtic-attuned ears, but here, although the bow-wielding brothers explored a whole other range of tonal and textural expression, the sheer intensity, drama and variety of their playing was nothing short of thrilling. Trio AAB joined the Indians for a set of specially-written boldly exploratory material, richly redolent of all the musicians' relish in bringing together two great improvising traditions, from the dreamily gorgeous Flower Child to the exhilarating hustle and bustle - and phenomenal soloing - of Chala Glasgow. A year after launching her third solo album, The Brightest Path, right here at the festival, Reid and her four-piece band displayed all the benefits of 12 months’ playing-in for it’s blend of tunes and songs, with a performance that was drumtight and sweetly subtle in all the right places.” Sue Wilson
“There was something for every palate on Saturday night as Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Queen’s Cross Church opened it’s doors for a cultural coming together that proved to be something of a genre-buster. Perthshire based fiddler Patsy Reid opened proceedings with a fine set of tunes from a tightly knit band that produced a sound with a retro-progressive feel, including a Donald Shaw composition, A Precious Place, with a mesmerizing interplay between drummer Signy Jakobsdóttir and bassist Ben Nicholls. Parallels can be drawn between the venue's architecture and the Carnatic music of Ganesh and Kumaresh Rajagopalan, two virtuoso violin-weilding brothers from India. For all its seeming complexity, it's really quite simply constructed. As they helpfully pointed out, they use the same seven chords as musicians elsewhere in the world; just differently. The breathtaking scope of their filmic sound, rhythmically precise and with a healthy dose of improvisation, was astonishing. The thunderous percussion of Acanthi R. Krishnan had the effect of a stick of dynamite in a fireworks factory, giving their set of sometimes extended extemporisations an explosive edge. There was a sibling synergy going on when, 40 minutes into the set, the brothers were joined by Trio AAB; those giants of Scottish jazz: Phil and Tom Bancroft and Kevin Mackenzie. When the two trios combined, we heard something sextet-tabulously new; as a wholly innovative musical language was created in five new pieces of music. What we heard, and you might too, if recording plans come to fruition, was a seamless melding of cross-continental music where violins met saxophone in harmonic unity and ambient textures and vocals became one. This was a triumphant concert for Celtic Connections and underlines its influence in the development of new music where boundaries cease to exist.” Keith Moore
Listen to This
by Alasdair MacLean
The Brightest Path stars fiddler Patsy Reid in her first solo recording since 2008. The question a nation poses is thus, "Was it worth the wait?" and of course the answer is a resounding "yes". The album was recorded in Crear in Argyll, with a supporting band of pretty classy names: Mhairi Hall on piano; Ewan MacPherson on strings other than fiddle, i.e. guitars, mandolin and banjo; Mattie Foulds on drums and Signy Jakobsdóttir on percussion. There's also a highly spiritual performance from Fraser Fifield on whistle and soprano saxophone. The whole collection has a dreamlike quality - would organic be too strong? As another bonus, Patsy sings on three tracks, on of them The River Princes by Ewan MacPherson - so in these parlous times, value for money isn't forgotten. (Classy Trad Records, CTREC002, CD)
The Brightest Path
Classy Trad Records CTREC002
Celebrated Scottish fiddler Patsy's third solo release, following Bridging the Gap (2008), is an assured and sophisticated melange drawing on her classical, traditional and contemporary musical experiences.
Since leaving Breabach, her renowned touch, tone and technique on fiddle, viola and cello (the 'one-woman string quartet'!) have provided many commissions, session and touring projects with, for example, Bella Hardy, Luke Daniels, Tim Edey, Donald Shaw, Kathryn Tickell (Northumbrian Voices), Duncan Chisholm, Joy Dunlop, Maeve Mackinnon, Treacherous Orchestra and VAMM.
Such diverse collaboration has clearly influenced this fine mosaic of co-arranged own instrumental compositions, traditional pieces and contemporary songs and tunes with her top-notch support 'band': Ewan MacPherson (guitars, banjo, mandolin), Mhairi Hall (piano), Fraser Fifield (soprano saxophone, whistle), Ben Nicholls (double bass, harmonium), Signy Jakobsdóttir (percussion) and Mattie Foulds (drums).
Her own pieces feature the intricate and delicate weave of her strings over complex layered instrumentation and modern hook grooves dynamically presented with a rich palette of bass tones, imaginative percussive detail and distinctly jazzy complement. The traditional tunes are equally deftly arranged with a keen dynamic sensibility allowing her exquisite fiddle voice ample opportunities for varied expression, both melodic and rhythmic. Contemporary songs by Ewan MacPherson, Daniel R. Messe and Patty Griffin are beguilingly conveyed with a voice reminiscent of Kellie White, but with a gentle Scottish lilt edge. She's so versatile!
Her presentation of Donald Shaw's A Precious Place is deeply stirring in its spacious and atmospheric qualities and aptly perhaps reflects recording at Crear in Argyll, overlooking Jura, on this excellent musical project supported by Creative Scotland.
Kevin T. Ward
The Brightest Path
Classy Trad Records CTREC002, £13.99
One of our top fiddlers - and this era is full of great fiddling talent - Patsy Reid (above), has released a full, focused album that holds the attention throughout, if only two of the ten tracks are from the tradition itself. But the heart of each selection is full and overflowing with honest expression and beautiful articulation, on her viola and cello as well as the violin. Here she performs with half a dozen of the country's finest players from a variety of musical genres, and also gives voice to three songs in an album that ends up as a profound example of the emotional riches in contemporary music making.
The Brightest Path
(Classy Trad Records) www.patsyreid.com
Winter has yet to release it's grip on the country but here are the first signs of spring. The sunshine isn't universal - there are still dark clouds - and I think I've taken the metaphor as far as I dare.
Donald Shaw's gorgeous composition 'A Precious Place' makes me think of spring and exemplifies the lightness of touch that characterises the record. The music bounces along like a mountain stream throughout with Bridge of Garry being a prime example. The metaphorical dark clouds come in Daniel R. Messe 's song, 'Half Acre'. Read anything about him and you'll understand, and the song provides moments of contrast, as does Patty Griffin's Kite Song - optimism infused with melancholy.
Patsy's band includes Ewan MacPherson, whose mandolin is a distinctive part of the overall sound, and percussionist Signy Jakobsdóttir who is given free reign to decorate the music. I keep hearing a harp but I know there isn't one - I suppose it's either very clever mandolin or chimes. The band can rock, too, when called upon. The opener, 'Hooray Henry' features Fraser Fifield's sax and Mattie Foulds's drums but calmness and serenity prevail.
The Brightest Path
Reid all about it
Patsy Reid is an in-demand fiddler who's been heard with Breabach, Kathryn Tickell and The Treacherous Orchestra , among others. She recently toured as part of female string trio VAMM, and features on Duncan Chisholm's Strathglass Trilogy. It's been a while since her last solo album, back in 2008, and The Brightest Path is full of musical inventions, with plenty of light and shade in the arrangements, and some fine soprano sax from Fraser Fifield. If you like lyrical Scottish fiddle playing with a proclivity for whitewater speeds, then The Brightest Path is one you should take. Opener 'Hooray Henry' has a propulsive drive in the rhythm section of drummer Mattie Foulds and double-bassist Ben Nicholls, with Reid's strings soloing and playing the main theme over a mixture of jazz, folk and rock. The traditional 'Donside' features just fiddle and Mhairi Hall's piano, and the two allow themselves plenty of space to spotlight the delicate textures of their playing. Ewan MacPherson's 'The River Princes', one of several covers here, features Reid's vocals, while her own air, 'Springa like Marit' featuring Ewan MacPherson's guitar, is a beautiful highlight.
fROOTS Playlist ***** Album Choice
The Brightest Path
Classy Trad Records CTREC002
There are lots of wondrous fiddle players in Scotland - and indeed the rest of the British Isles. What perhaps sets Patsy Reid apart is musical hunger and her willingness to explore supposedly alien territories of technique, content and culture. This inevitably contains no small element of risk but, accomplished as she is, Patsy has not only earned the right to take the bow on a journey of discovery, she's gathered the know-how to get it right.
Already vastly experienced in a conglomeration of different techniques via her work with Breabach, VAMM, the Cecil Sharp Project and innumerable Celtic Connections collaborations, Patsy really extends herself (and sounds like she's having a lot of fun too) dabbling here and delving there with lively jaunts between hardcore tradition and contemporary experimentation.
The album was conceived, workshopped and refined at the Crear arts retreat in Argyll, where she was joined by Mhairi Hall (piano), Ewan MacPherson (guitar, banjo, mandolin), Ben Nicholls (double Bass, harmonium), Fraser Fifield (sax, whistle), Signy Jakobsdóttir (percussion) and Mattie Foulds - co-producer - on drums.
What emerges is a veritable jamboree of styles. It opens, for example, with her own Hooray Henry, a meandering jazz ensemble work that suddenly explodes with a startling volley of sax before being replaced by a sparse piano accompaniment ushering in the plaintive Reid fiddle on a gorgeous traditional tune, Donside. The contrast is striking yet somehow seamless, but before you know it she's singing Ewan MacPherson's heartwarming song The River Princes with confidence and panache.
Patsy also plays cello and viola amid the rapidly changing textures and while the issue may occasionally be clouded by a marginal overload of sound and finicky arrangements, it generally does all hang together remarkably well. Some may inevitably bleat about purity and wanting to hear Patsy playing solo fiddle while others will be seduced by the sentimental song selection, but at the heart of it all there's a glorious musician playing with soul and integrity and that goes a long way. You can hear a track on this issue's fRoots 48 compilation.
Album: The Brightest Path
Label: Classy Trad
In the two years since Patsy Reid left the highly acclaimed Breabach, she has been a very busy fiddler: an album and tours in 2012 and 2013 with her three piece, Vamm; performing as part of The Cecil Sharp Project, Zakir Hussain's Pulse of The World, and Kathryn Tickell's Northumbrian Voices; a UK wide tour with Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman; numerous Celtic Connections commissions, contributions on fiddle, cello and viola to a myriad of albums including Bella Hardy, Donald Shaw, Treacherous Orchestra and Tim Edey; teaching fiddle at various courses and institutions; and an exotic residency in India as part of Folk Nations.
Patsy's third solo album and the first since 2008, 'The Brightest Path' was released earlier this week and is being showcased in a UK tour with dates up to the end of May. Co-produced with drummer and engineer Mattie Foulds, recorded on the beautiful west coast of Scotland at Crear and with funding from Creative Scotland its 10 tracks are not your usual Scottish fiddling fare, but are an inclusive reflection of her musical journey since leaving Breabach. Even though classed as a solo album 'The Brightest Path' has heavyweight contributions by well-seasoned musicians in the shape of Ewan MacPherson (guitars, banjo and mandolin), Ben Nicholls (double bass and harmonium), Mhairi Hall (piano), Signy Jakobsdóttir (percussion), Mattie Foulds (drums and vocals), Fraser Fifield (soprano sax and whistle) and Patsy herself on fiddle, viola, cello and vocals, and is a vibrant mixture of various traditional, contemporary and self-penned songs and tunes.
The album opens with Patsy's jazz influenced seamless 'Hooray Henry', which begins with a drums and bass groove with interplay from banjo and piano, overlaid with fiddle playing centre stage, building up into a three pronged attack of fiddle, viola and cello, followed by sax dovetailing the main theme. This unusual arrangement of instruments in this setting complements each other and 'Hooray Henry' wouldn't be out of place on Manfred Eicher's ethereal ECM label.
Patsy's two other tunes 'Thugainn' and the album closer, the charming 'The Baby Tune', clearly demonstrate the strength of all the musicians having a hand in the arrangements, and the latter contains some lovely mandolin playing especially in the lullaby finale.
'Donside' a set of two Strathspey's from the Athole Collection archives in Perth is the first visit to 18th century traditional tunes. The slower longing of 'Don Side' with its fiddle and piano accompaniment interwoven with some subtle snatches of low whistle, counter melody second fiddle and glockenspiel gives way to the more upbeat second tune 'Mrs. Ross's Rant' with fiddle and low whistle sharing the lead.
The other visit is a set of 3 tunes, 'Bridge of Garry', begins with a jazzy folk arrangement of 'Miss General Campbell' followed by the more traditional setting of the reel 'Bridge of Garry' and ends with the strathspey 'Fouller's Rant'. This set highlights the virtuoso skills of Patsy's playing especially in the different styles of bowing she brings to the tunes.
Apart from the self-penned tunes there are two contemporary ones from writers Patsy has worked with. Having not heard Capercaillie's Donald Shaw's original slow air 'A Precious Place' from his Hebrides - Islands On The Edge suite which Patsy played fiddle on, I don't know if her arrangement remains true to the original. What I know is that this version is one of my favourite tracks on the album and reflects the time spent on the Folk Nations residency in India. It's a relaxing almost transcendental mix of Scotland meeting India complete with morning raga inspired guitar lines with harmonium laying drone like undertones, pitched percussion embellishment held together with some melancholic fiddle playing. 'Lost In Green' a tune written by melodeon player Julian Sutton who with Patsy were part of Kathryn Tickell's Northumbrian Voices, has a modern feel to it mainly due to having the soprano sax as a main instrument and conjures up images of a gentle North East folk dance.
Between the instrumentals there are three contemporary songs sung by Patsy. I am sure that this is the first recording of Ewan MacPherson's 'The River Princes' which contains the album's title in its lyric and has a rock ballad feel to it which could be destined for the Radio 2 playlist. The interpretation of both Hem's Dan Messé's 'Half Acre' and Patty Griffin's 'Kite' can be described as chamber folk. On both tracks the piano dominates and is enhanced by the pastoral feel of Patsy's violin, viola and cello with added guitar and glockenspiel on 'Kite'. All three songs suit Patsy's pure tones which are too pure for me as I prefer edginess to female vocals. Having said that, the interpretations of all three songs are more than mere copies with especially 'Kite' being completely renewed from the simple plaintive piano musings of the original.
'The Brightest Path' has made interesting listening and in the main an album I really like. No doubt the tranquil beauty of the location completed by the different moods of the weather and the colours of the landscape have been captured in the songs, tunes and recording and also with the collective feel to its creation. The album refuses to be pigeon holed which to me is its greatest strength.
The Brightest Path
Classy Trad Records, £13.99
A lass o' pairts is Patsy Reid, twice Glenfiddich fiddle champion, former member of Breabach and fiddler in demand for countless projects. Here she cuts loose under her own name, playing viola and cello as well as fiddle, with a well chosen band, including saxophonist Fraser Fifield, pianist Mhairi Hall and guitarist Ewan MacPherson. She also sings three contemporary songs with sweetness and clarity, with Half Acre particularly appealing on its raft of strings.
Ensemble tightness is evident right from the opening Hooray Henry, with fiddle and sax riffing compellingly over Mattie Foulds' drums. Donside takes a gentler route into traditional territory, a slow strathspey which Reid handles with feeling and ushers into a satisfying reel. Stealthily chiming percussion brings in her own tune, Thugainn, while another traditional set dances skittishly over rolling piano and double bass. The showstopper, however, is A Precious Place, fiddle and guitar sounding sublimely over an eastern-style drone.
The Brightest Path
Classy Trad Records
THERE is a telling credit at the start of the thank-yous on fiddler Patsy Reid's new CD which possibly explains its undoubted success as a coherent album, particularly given the pleasing diversity of its content.
Reid, whose own diversity encompasses classical violin as well as the fullest exploration of traditional sources, chooses to begin her list with an acknowledgement of the people who run Crear, the arts retreat and venue in Argyll that is also popular for weddings (Glasgow subway users may know the adverts that feature a quote from Travis's Fran Healy).
Clearly she and her excellent sextet, many of whom are well known for work in their own right and with others, spent some time workshopping these selections in an atmosphere free from distractions to achieve the focus that unites her own compositions, from the lively opener, Hooray Henry to the wistful family-dedicated closer, The Baby Tune with guitarist Ewan MacPherson's The River Princes, Donald Shaw's A Precious Place, Half Acre from Brooklyn's Hem and Patty Griffin's Kite Song.
It's a great selection, recorded by drummer Mattie Foulds at Crear and mastered by Stuart Hamilton at Castlesound. It may not be the most original recipe, but it sure is tasty.
The Brightest Path
2014 Studio Album
Patsy Reid’s new album The Brightest Path creates a powerful and poignant sense of place. The album is a journey, a long walk through varied countryside. Each piece has a different feeling; the pace, colour and climate changes and develops over the course of the album.
The Brightest Path was recorded live in remote Crear in Argyll, with a view overlooking Jura. The music evokes the sublime beauty of the environment where it was made.
Her first album since 2008, The Brightest Path is a tapestry of traditional tunes, contemporary songs and original compositions. It features Ben Nicholls (double bass), Ewan MacPherson (guitars, mandolin, banjo), Signy Jakobsdottir (percussion), Mhairi Hall (piano) and Mattie Foulds (drums). Patsy herself plays violin, viola, and cello. The final contributor to the band is Fraser Fifield who Patsy describes as ’the saxophone version of me’ and who brings an ethereal sound to the mix.
The first track, Hooray Henry, by Patsy, has a modern jazz feel. It starts perhaps a little surprisingly with keyboard and drums building a scene for the fiddle to enter. The saxophone wanders into a little improvisation in the middle with drums and keyboards hovering in the background. While the fiddle is at the centre of the music, all the other instruments interweave into a seamless support.
Donside follows, a traditional tune with a quieter feel. It builds with a sense of yearning. Piano and fiddle march together, playing variations on the core tune, rising and falling in relation to each other and coming back from harmony to unison. We are left with a sense of being in quiet countryside.
The piece merges into a more traditional tune midway through with keyboard keeping a low profile initially. The listener is on a walk, meandering then moving through a quiet valley to more intense climbing...
The River Princes by Ewan MacPherson is the first of three songs, and it contains the album’s title in its lyric. The song has a very bright start as if emerging from the forest into a clearing -’ the brightest path runs through the trees’. There is a real feeling of breakthrough and illumination at the heart of this title song.
Thugainn, another piece by Patsy, brings a slowing down again, a more tentative feel as the fiddle picks its way forward like making one’s way on an overgrown path. There is a Scandinavian feel to the tune - and a distinctive ornamentation to the bowing. The drums and percussion create intensity before developing into a lighter and more upbeat tune.
In A Precious Place follows. It opens with a long persistent note from the fiddle as the backbone of the piece. As the fiddle emerges, the deeply reflective and thoughtful nature of the piece becomes evident. Half Acre is the second song, a nostalgic reflection on the poignant memories we carry with us.
The pace picks up again in the traditional Bridge of Garry with a return to a more jazzy folk flavour. The entrance of the fiddle heralds a traditional folk tune offset against a contemporary backdrop. Once again, the listener has the feeling of progress on a journey, now perhaps on horseback moving across slightly rough terrain. Lightly dark overtones emerge into a sunnier major feel. This is Patsy’s fiddling at her finest with some interesting variety in the bowing to create colourings of emphasis. Bridge of Garry is one of the most compelling tracks on the album.
Lost in Green by Julian Sutton opens with a mix of instruments setting the scene for the fiddle, creating a synthesis of sound including the emergence of the saxophone. The fiddle is centre stage at first and the rhythm evokes an image of a folk dance. Every so often the music resolves into a moment with a modern feel, a pause before the fiddle returns ever more insistent. The piece fades out with the saxophone having established itself as equal player.
Kite Song is the third and final song, a wistful lyric by Patti Griffin about flying kites high, dreaming of escaping from the sadness and fear of ordinary life.
The final track, The Baby Tune by Patsy, opens with the light evocative sound of keyboard and guitar and mandolin, like fairy bells or a lullaby. The fiddle unobtrusively blends in and then provides a tune in counterpoint. The piece blends to harmony and then fades back to silence. The feel and name of this piece give a sense of birth, bringing the album to its close.
The Brightest Path is an album of many colours and moods, changeable like the weather. These are pieces that can be listened to again and again, and which really evoke the spirit of their place.
Patsy Reid – The Brightest Path
19 FEBRUARY 2014
by JOHNNY WHALLEY
in ALBUM REVIEWS
I first came into contact with Patsy Reid in the Late Night Club at Gosport and Easter Festival, Breabach had just shaken the place to its foundations and the room was buzzing with the excitement they’d generated. There was a tear in the eye when Patsy and Breabach went their separate ways in 2011, with Patsy becoming increasingly involved in a vast array of collaborations. A quick, and I suspect incomplete, trawl found 12 albums that she has contributed to within the last 3 years. The Brightest Path, however, is the first album released under her own name since 2008, and it’s most certainly been worth the wait. It’s an album that brilliantly illustrates the breadth of Patsy’s musical interests and talents. It includes, I’m delighted to say, tracks that in live performance could generate the same buzz as on that first night with Breabach.
Although billed as a ‘solo’ album, Patsy has made good use of her previous collaborations to put together what she calls the core band. This consists of Ben Nicholls (double bass), Ewan MacPherson (guitars, banjo and mandolin), Signy Jakobsdóttir (percussion), Mhairi Hall (piano) and Mattie Foulds (drums). An addition to this core, initially coming as something of a surprise, is the alto sax of Fraser Fifield. Patsy contributes fiddle, viola and cello to the line up. As she says, a one woman string quartet.
The album opens with an instrumental track written by Patsy, Hooray Henry. A toe-tapping percussion and banjo rhythm is soon overlaid by a solo fiddle building into a three instrument string arrangement. Then the alto sax joins in and the track really takes off, with banjo, fiddle and sax interweaving phrases in a style that wouldn’t be out of place in a jazz quartet, but I doubt any jazz outfit ever thought to feature this combination of instruments. Patsy has described Fraser Fifield as “the saxophone version of me” and Hooray Henry illustrates just how apt a description this is. I may have been surprised to find alto sax in the listings but was soon convinced it was an inspired move. I confess I would have been content if the album had simply continued in this vein but Patsy paints on a much broader musical canvas. To underline this, the very next track, Donside, returns to traditional territory with a set of two tunes that Patsy has culled from the Atholl Collection archives in Perth.
As well as instrumental fireworks, the album includes 3 songs, all by contemporary songwriters. In explaining her choice of songs, Patsy says she doesn’t consider herself to be a folk singer. I’d quite like to debate this with Patsy, her delightful version of Lochaber No More (lyrics penned in 1724 and set to an even older tune) remains one of my favourite Breabach vocal tracks. However, ancient or modern, her pure tone and expressive delivery ensure that the songs add another rich layer of enjoyment to the album.
Patsy is currently touring, with dates planned up to May, showcasing the album material. She’ll be accompanied by Mhairi Hall, Ewan MacPherson and Signy Jakobsdóttir and Ben Nicholls will join them at Cecil Sharp House for the April 30th gig. Sadly, Fraser and his alto sax isn’t able to be part of the line up this time around but I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I’ll catch the Patsy/Fraser pairing live at some point. Meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying this album in all of its many facets.
Review by: Johnny Whalley
Link to Folk Radio UK Review
The Brightest Path
Classy Trad Records CTREC002 £13.99
Fiddler Patsy Reid plays all the members of her instrumental family here and underscores her own vocals. She has strong accompaniment from a group of half a dozen instrumentalists, including drummer and co-producer Mattie Foulds. The album mixes powerful airs and traditional tunes with contemporary self-penned and acquired songs - and it is the tight arrangements that grab attention; it has a great rhythmic jazz-leaning, funky undertow that sustains the Path's musical interest and makes certain that the youthful fiddler is no patsy. Norman Chalmers
This Perthshire fiddler seems to be at the top of her game at the moment: fine albums with Vamm and Mhairi Hall recently, and now her third solo album which is simply excellent. Patsy shows her intentions from the first note: a thumping bass and percussion intro with banjo touches for the first of four original compositions here: Hooray Henry, a jazzy little romp on fiddle and saxophone. Fraser Fifield's sax is an important part of the sound on The Brightest Path, complementing the fiddle, and there are several other musicians involved in this recording, but Patsy is responsible for the arrangements and indeed plays viola and cello here as well as fiddle. There are two great sets of traditional Scots tunes, strathspeys and reels: I would have a liked a bit more snap on the slow lyrical Donside, but the power and precision of the fiddling is exemplary. Donald Shaw's slow air A Precious Place conjures up for me the rugged windswept beauty of the Scottish highlands, and Julian Sutton's Lost in Green is a gentle giant of a tune.
Patsy sings three songs on this CD, deliberately not mainstream folk. Ewan MacPherson's River Princess provides the album title in an allegorical lyric arranged almost as a rock ballad. Half Acre by Daniel R Messe is a soulful song of homesickness, beautifully sung. Patricia J Griffin's Kite Song is another dark-edged number with a spark of hope, gently delivered by Patsy. Although these vocal tracks are not in a folky style, they aren't out of place on this album. The Brightest Path is hard to classify - there are aspects of more traditional music, even of Patsy's former colleagues in Breabach, but this music also reminds me of Anna-Wendy Stevenson's Edinburgh blend of trad with jazz and classical elements, and even of more anarchic bands such as Bongshang or the wilder side of Skyedance. Patsy finishes off a very fine CD with her own Baby Tune, charming and vibrant, with a lovely mandolin line by Mr MacPherson, a suitably polished ending.
Patsy has contributed her skills to so many other musicians fine work that there is a danger of missing the bigger picture of her abilities. As a musician, songwriter and singer she has excelled in bands as diverse as Breabach and VAMM, been a pivotal part in commissions and toured all over the place. Just have a look at the ‘Collaboration’ page on her web site to get an idea of the sheer breadth of work she has been involved in.
So an album all of her own work is bound to be something special, and Reid proves that the brightest path that you can tread is your own. Three of her own compositions sit alongside a handful of trad arrangements and some cherry picked modern compositions. Patsy has assembled a wish list of musicians to perform on the album; Mhairi Hall, Ewan MacPherson, Ben Nicholls, Fraser Fifield, Signy Jakobsdóttir and Mattie Foulds - the result is a brilliant, tender record.
Describing Patsy Reid a fiddle player is a little like calling Renoir a painter … the description is correct but it leaves out so much. Her solo album 'The Brightest Path' combines some lesser known traditional Scottish melodies with some soon-to-be well-known self-penned tunes and contemporary songs that display only a fraction of her talent.
Patsy lays a soft touch that coaxes so much out of violin, viola and cello. As you listen you hear delicate, almost fragile melodies create a ‘living essence’, so elegant that when the notes fade only a tantalising memory remains. Listen to tunes like the dreamy ‘Hooray Henry’, the lingering elation of ‘Thugainn’ or the enchanting tapestry of ‘A Precious Place’ and you’ll understand. Although not known as a singer, a fact Patsy readily acknowledges, her pure vocals offer some luscious songs to savour such as the softly reflective 'The River Princes' or the simple reassurance of Kite Song'.
'The Brightest Path' reflects that ‘living essence’ to the full. Recorded in the remote Crear on the west coast of Scotland, with a group of musicians that lend a scintillating dimension to Patsy’s music, there’s Ben Nicholls (double bass, harmonium) Ewan MacPherson (guitars, banjo, mandolin) Signy Jakobsdóttir (percussion) Mhairi Hall (piano) and Mattie Foulds (drums, vocals) plus Fraser Fifield (soprano saxophone, whistle). Intrigued by music as a living entity? 'The Brightest Path' is for you.
A folk supergroup of sorts, consisting of Scots fiddlers Patsy Reid (Breabach) and Catriona Macdonald (Blazin’ Fiddles) plus acclaimed Norwegian Marit Fält on låtmandola, Vamm (the name comes from a Shetland word meaning to bewitch) offer ten instrumentals on their debut album. Composed by the band members and luminaries such as Aidan O’Rourke (Lau) they highlight the members strengths— rhythm master Fält laying down the guide while the fiddles weave in, out, up and down around it.
There’s a delightful lightness of touch and deftness to their playing, and as one tune blends into the next seamlessly, whether it’s a rapid fire dance or a more considered piece like Lurkas, the listener really appreciates the skill of the musicians. But appreciating skill is all very well, what really matters is how the music makes you feel, and here Vamm are not lacking. Joyous in the playing, their music is equally joyous in the listening and you can just get swept away in it until almost without realising it you’re bouncing round the room.
The absence of a song or two will be a problem for some listeners but it’s never hurt Lau and while too many folk instrumental groups are just about speed and virtuosity Vamm aren’t show-offs, keen to flaunt their chops at the expense of what the music is really about. They’re quick when they need to be of course, but what you really get from their playing is feel and vivacity and consequently their music delights and enthrals in equal measure. A lovely album.
By Jeremy Searle
A Little Bird Blown off Course
St Peter's Hall, Daliburgh, South Uist
Singer Fiona J Mackenzie evokes a living tradition of Gaelic song with exquisite results – but this is more gig than theatre. ***
Last month in the Edinburgh international festival, the Bang on a Can All-Stars used field recordings as a jumping-off point for a series of modernist compositions. In most cases, the new scores were less interesting than the source material which, even worse, was exoticised in the process. No such complaint here in the Outer Hebrides, where singer Fiona J Mackenzie is evoking a living tradition of Gaelic song in a production by the National Theatre of Scotland and the Blas festival.
The little bird blown off course was Margaret Fay Shaw, an American woman who took an unexpected migratory path from Pennsylvania to South Uist in 1929. While at school in Helensburgh, she developed a passion for Gaelic song. Having travelled to South Uist to do some research, she dedicated her life to the preservation of an oral tradition that would otherwise have been lost. Here and on neighbouring Canna, where she lived with her folklorist husband John Lorne Campbell, she built up an invaluable archive of photographs, cine films, recordings and scores, until her death in 2004.
The stage world inhabited by Mackenzie is consequently one of scratchy 78s, crackly phonograph cylinders and black-and-white images of sheep shearers, fishermen, crofters and guisers. Accompanied by a superb four-piece band, playing Donald Shaw's bright and inventive arrangements, Mackenzie runs through a repertoire of work songs, laments and lullabies, her voice soulful, melodious and pure. As a musical experience, one with deep and considered roots in the culture, it is exquisite.
Theatrically, however, the show is under-developed; it tells us little about Shaw and nothing that isn't already in the printed programme. It is honest in its excavation and celebration of the island's culture, but makes no pretence to be dramatic: splendid as an enhanced gig; too cautious as theatre.
During its short, seven year existence, the National Theatre of Scotland has taken an admirably flexible approach in its characterisation of theatre. So much has come under its benevolent umbrella that it seems to have adopted the great drama critic Kenneth Tynan's elastic definition of theatre as "basically a means of spending two hours in the dark without being bored."
In some regards the company's latest show, Gaelic title Eun Bheag Chanaidh - which is rendered in English as A Little Bird Blown Off Course (although it translates literally as A Little Canna Bird) - stretches that definition to its limits. Billed as a work of "music theatre" it might be better described as an illustrated concert.
The show is based upon the extensive archive of the Gaelic song of the Outer Hebridean island of South Uist which was the life's work of the great, Pittsburgh-born musicologist Margaret Fay Shaw. Building her early-20th century collection of audio recordings, written music, films and photographs with the assistance of her folklorist husband John Lorne Campbell, Shaw made an immeasurable contribution to preserving for posterity the rich cultural traditions of this extraordinary island.
The Canna of the show's Gaelic title is the small Hebridean island bought by Campbell, bequeathed to the National Trust for Scotland, and where Shaw's friend Magda Sagarzazu maintains the archive. The piece - which is constructed from the archive by the revered Gaelic singer and teacher Fiona J Mackenzie - is a tapestry of projected films and photographs, recorded song and live performance by a superb five-piece band, led by Mackenzie herself.
To watch the show on South Uist, in a capacity audience of 113 (approximately five percent of the island's population), is, in certain moments, quite moving. Flickering on the screens - whether dancing in Highland dress or working in the fields - are the ghosts of a culture and a language which are still, not least through education and music, fighting for their survival. Mackenzie's own singing is a gorgeous manifestation of a culture's pain, defiance, resilience and beauty.
For all its strengths, however, this production still seems like a slightly awkward combination of musical concert and archival research. Its hour and 20 minutes is, unquestionably, time spent in the dark without being bored, but it never quite feels like a coherent work of theatre.
MHAIRI HALL & PATSY REID - Contours Of Cairngorm, Live
Strath Records STRATH002CD
Born and raised in Aviemore, pianist Mhairi Hall is regarded as one of Scotland’s most creative exponents of that humble instrument. In 2009, she released her debut CD Cairngorm, on which she was accompanied by Michael Bryan (acoustic guitar) and Fraser Stone (drum kit) in scintillating arrangements of traditional tunes and original compositions from the region. Contours Of Cairngorm, the conscious follow-up, is an even more ambitious development, being a half-hour-long through-composed suite of instrumental music developed from the Trio’s Cairngorm music, using a classical approach to its performance and thus uniting the two genres and their musicians. A completely new dimension is brought to the music by adding a fresh texture, that of bowed string instruments, to the scoring, bringing on board accomplished young Perthshire fiddle/viola player Patsy Reid and the acclaimed Edinburgh Quartet.
The eight pieces comprising Contours Of Cairngorm are based on traditional melodies from the area of Badenoch and Strathspey (which now encompasses a large part of the Cairngorms National Park, taking in, naturally, the mountain An Càrn Gorm itself). They’re played continuously, without any breaks between movements, and the effect is rather like that of a tumbling mountain stream of invention that cascades along and carries the listener with its flow. Although it’s not strictly “programme music” as such, it does have a pictorial, descriptive element, which the listener can either take on that level or else just revel in the delightful tunes and exhilarating arrangements. (It may be classical-style folk music, but it doesn’t demand serious concentration or any degree of “academic” musical knowledge for its appreciation.)
Amongst the work’s plethora of delectable experiences, I might single out the opening sequence when Sunrise rushes headlong into The World’s Gone Over Me Now, and the ensuing parade of contrasted moods that makes up A Good Winter, after which the title piece forms a reflective epicentre. Also the creeping syncopated rhythms of the strathspey Craig Ellachie, then naturally the suite’s bustling finale bringing the house down with its rhythmic energy… For this is a live recording, drawn from the work’s debut performance, at The Grand City Halls in Glasgow as part of Celtic Connections 2011, and there was an invigorating “frisson of the moment” in the music-making on this occasion, which is certainly conveyed in Dónal Lunny’s cleanly managed transfer of the source tape. The musicianship is of course first-rate; Patsy gained quite a name for herself with Breabach (though she is no longer with them), while Mhairi is one of the scene’s most in-demand session musicians (she’s worked with Patsy before too, of course, on 2008’s Bridging The Gap project). Patsy’s special expressive skills, whether in slower or faster mode, are a known quantity, while her own inventiveness dovetails admirably with the lazy late-night-lounge feel of the guitar and drum parts (especially on the strathspeys).
There are the folk purists who would usually shy away from any treatments involving the piano, taking the view that the drawing-room is not the ideal milieu for traditional music; to them I say give this recording a chance, for you’ll likely find yourself won over by Mhairi’s wonderfully fluid technique, often jazzy cross-rhythms and quietly introspective expressiveness.
IN THE seven years since the launch of the National Theatre of Scotland, the company has emerged as one of the chief inheritors of the great tradition of Highland theatre touring once championed by companies like 7:84 Scotland.
A Little Bird Blown Off Course
St Peter’s Hall, South Uist
* * * *
This is not least because the flexible, open-ended definition of theatre embraced by the NTS has created opportunities to work with a tradition of song, music and storytelling which is not conventionally theatrical, but which offers terrific scope for performance and reflection, in a style that extends the idea of what theatre can be.
So it’s not for anything resembling a play, exactly, that a crowd of more than hundred people converge on St. Peter’s Hall at Daliburgh, this week, to see the very first public performance of the NTS’s new show A Little Bird Blown Off Course, created and performed by the Gaelic singer Fiona J. Mackenzie. The show – produced as part of the Blas Festival, and set to tour the Highlands and Islands over the next week – is inspired by the life and work of Margaret Fay Shaw, the great collector of Uist folksongs and folklore, who was born in Pennsylvania in 1903, and died on Canna in 2004, after a lifetime spent with her husband, John Lorne Campbell, recording and preserving the living culture of the islands.
The show therefore takes the form of an 80-minute song cycle drawn from Shaw’s collection, superbly performed by Fiona Mackenzie with a terrific four-piece band, and accompanied by some powerful fragments of text, and by fragile film and sound recordings from Shaw’s own collection; and at one level, the evening is not without its flaws. The small screens on which the films are shown are partly obscured on a crowded stage; and the show dwells on the old recording technology used by Shaw and Campbell in a way that gives it a slightly slow, hesitant and hand-knitted air.
The overall effect, though, is to create an increasingly powerful sense of the layers of memory and archive and decaying, technology through which this immense heritage of song has somehow made its way down to us. In the hall at Daliburgh – where Margaret Fay Shaw first arrived in the islands, in 1926 – the audience strained to hear the old crackling cylinders on which the songs were first recorded, as if they might recognise the voices, or the families from which they come. Shaw’s soft black-and-white films of fishing and crofting bring gasps of memory and appreciation, as each sequence of images weaves into the texture of a song.
And at the end, when images appear of modern Uist people remembering and singing the songs Shaw saved, while the live musicians on stage respond to them, the performance acquires a passionate musical and emotional momentum. This is not an obviously radical show, in the 7:84 tradition. But if the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting, then this is the story of a people defying the odds to retain the power of their own heritage; and of a woman who dedicated her life to making sure that they had the information, that helped make that survival a possibility, and a reality.
This CD came out of the blue, a very pleasant surprise. The two fiddlers involved - Catriona MacDonald and Patsy Reid - are deservedly well known, and I've reviewed several of their recordings. They are joined here by Marit Fält, a young Norwegian playing a rather special mandola. It's hard to believe that Vamm's music comes from only three musicians - they increase their firepower with the Shetland and Scandinavian techniques of double-stopping and ringin' strings, but that mandola really does seem to possess magic powers of accompaniment.
Vamm's repertoire is broadly based around Celtic and Nordic fiddle music, quite eclectic and surprisingly contemporary. There are a couple of Marit's compositions, and one of James Scott Skinner's, but others come from as far afield as Canada, as close to home as Oban, and all points in between. The trio has an ear for a good tune, a taste for the earthy harmonies of Lau or Fribo, and an absolute gift for arrangement. I'm reminded of Oliver Schroer, Alasdair Fraser, and numerous young Shetland fiddlers who have embraced Scottish and Scandinavian styles. Catriona was one of the first to do this, of course, studying the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle. Patsy comes more from the Scottish mainstream, but has become something of an expert on modal music, a great asset with Scandinavian melodies. Marit fills the gaps as an excellent accompanist, showing her understanding of fiddle music from Lochaber to Lappland.
An Aidan O'Rourke tune is always a good opener, and The Duchess of Yell is no exception. Its pumping rhythms and catchy melody give way to the grandeur of Castle Grant, and then the irrepressible swing of Jim Sutherland's reel The Ostrich. Marit's Miranda is a beautiful tune, low and melancholy. Woodridge Breakdown is at the other end of the fiddle spectrum, a Canadian creole showpiece full of joy and jive. Better Days continues the happy mood, until Felgrubben drowns it in Nordic misery. Fortunately, Scottish good humour comes to the rescue in the form of a few West Coast tunes, polished off perfectly by the fiddle duo. Another dose of Scandinavian soul on Lurkas brings us to the final track, piper Darren Milligan's Prospect Road, a chance for Vamm to pull out all the stops on a country-style slow drag. Beauty and power, light and shade, Vamm cover the whole range of fiddle music on truly delightful CD.
Patsy Reid is a Perthshire based fiddler,composer and teacher, who in a few short years has built up an impressive biography, in 2001 she was one of the finalists in the first BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year, the youngest winner of the Glenfiddich Fiddle Championship, a graduate of The Royal Northern College of Music and is currently a member of the highly regarded and rising stars of the folk circuit Breabach.
In 2008 Celtic Connections New Voices commissioned Reid to produce the show 'Bridging the Gap' which does precisely that, bridging the gap between Reid's love and background in both Classical and Traditional Music, the live show at the Festival last year (2008) was extremely well received and consequently the live recording was later released by Vertical Records.
'Bridging The Gap' itself is composed of nine self composed melodies and is divided into three movements fusing the different modes of classical music into jigs, reels, airs and hornpipes, the performance is centred around Reid's solo fiddle accompanied by a eight strong string section, guitar percussion and piano, accompanied by (amongst others) Mhairi Hall (piano), Aidan O'Rourke, Deidre Morrison and Wendy Stevenson (fiddle), Duncan Lyall (Double Bass). The first movement is composed of four tunes, Baby Broon, Space to Breathe, Slowing Down and Vanessa Edward's Enviable Rhythm, opening with Reid's solo fiddle introducing the Reel Baby Broon providing the focus for what is to follow, she is quickly joined by the full ensemble mentioned above, the tempo changes to the following Jig 'Space to Breathe' and the Slow Air 'Slowing Air', all of which is seemlessly moved between with apparant ease. The remaining two movements also provide similar fusion of classical and traditional styles with Reid regularly pushing boundaries whilst at the same time maintaining the depth and beauty of the whole piece. The personal highlight for me was the second movement of the three consisting of 'The Strath Sunrise' a slow and very evocative Air in the lydian mode followed by the one march of the piece 'Two of a Kind', whilst the Air was perhaps the more orchestral piece of the performance the March follows the reflective nature of the Air with a different 'beat' nicely reflecting the diversity of the entire performance.
Indeed a shame that the performance was a one off, finally the CD sleeve is quite useful for giving a little background into the different classical modes and how they are defined, but thats not necessary here, other than to say Reid has produced an outstanding work that will pay testament to her skill in both performance and composition for some time, it certainly bodes extremely well for Reid's future career.
Fiddler Patsy Reid's contribution to last year's New Voices series at Celtic Connections allowed her to exercise both her expertise in traditional music and her classical training in a suite designed to bring those poles together. It is structured in three movements in reference to the classical concerto form, but with each segment within the movements based on a traditional reel, jig, slow air, march, Strathspey or hornpipe, set in a specific mode.
Reid is the principal soloist in a fine ensemble that also features fellow fiddlers Aidan O'Rourke and Anna Wendy Stevenson. The attractive and coherent suite is skillfully constructed and beautifully performed, and provides another feather in the cap for a series that has consistently encouraged imaginative young musicians to think outside of the usual forms and structures of traditional music, often with similarly impressive results that haven't always made it onto disc.
By KENNY MATHIESON
REID ALL ABOUT IT - If I was a talented young fiddler that was still in her twenties, I would be more than pleased with myself upon the release of this sumptuous, wide-reaching, mature-sounding album. Perthshire-born Patsy Reid’s three- part fiddle concerto for Celtic Connections 08, ‘Bridging the Gap,’ has succeeded in creating an attractive fusion of Scottish traditional and classical music where other, more experienced names have been unable to deliver. It doesn’t just ‘bridge the gap’ – it lays down a sparkling tapestry between the two genres. Not so surprising you might say, given that Reid is already acclaimed as an excellent fiddle player, and the eleven musicians she drafted in for this recording are meticulously selected and no less impressive: Mairi Campbell, Aidan O'Rourke, Natalie Haas, Duncan Lyall and Anna Wendy Stevenson join her on various fiddles, while Iain Copeland provides the rhythm. Yet Reid likes thinking outside the box, as not only did she compose the music (it includes 9 original compositions), but she brought in all seven melodic modes in each jig, reel or air moving beyond the well-trodden path of Aeolian and Ionian (the major and the minor), and introducing the Mixolydian Scottish bagpipe scale and the Dorian mode, the Phrygian and Locrian modes. Not obvious choices at all and, though not always ‘beautiful’ to listen to, they work surprisingly well. Reid is soloist and is joined by a nine-piece string section of double bass, cello, viola and violin/fiddle, with extra drive provided in the form of guitar, piano and percussion and the company takes the listener on a journey through each mode. Talk of modes is all very impressive, but you don’t need to understand it to appreciate this stuff. Bridging the Gap is really excellent stuff – there’s so much pushing of the envelope and imagination displayed in this album that it’s hard to imagine what Reid might offer up next!
By SHELLY MARSDEN
This is an astonishingly good CD. Bigger names than Patsy Reid have failed to impress when asked to blend folk and classical music for Celtic Connections, but her three-movement fiddle concerto is a total triumph. In some ways, the quality was never in doubt: Patsy's fiddle credentials were underlined by her recent CD With Complements, and she has enlisted several other stars of traditional music to assist in this live recording. Mairi Campbell, Aidan O'Rourke, Natalie Haas, Duncan Lyall and Anna Wendy Stevenson join her on fiddles of various sizes, while Iain Copeland provides the beat. On the other hand, in addition to taking on all the composing duties, Patsy chose to include all seven melodic modes in this work: not just the familiar Ionian and Aeolian modes, representing the major and minor scales, but also the Mixolydian Scottish bagpipe scale and the related Dorian mode, and even the downright unpopular Phrygian and Locrian modes, a risky business. Plainly put, this means that some of the tunes here sound a bit weird, but it still all works.
Bridging the Gap is divided into three movements. The first includes four tunes: Baby Broon, Space to Breathe, Slowing Down, and Vanessa Edward's Enviable Rhythm. Starting with a splendid minor reel, the tempo moves to a slow jig and then to a sumptuous slow air. So far there's nothing which would be out of place on any modern Scottish album, but the 7/8 rhythm of the final theme immediately cries "Balkan", emphasised by the Dorian mode of this hypnotic tune. The second movement contains the much more orchestral Strath Sunrise, an evocative piece in the Scandinavian-sounding Lydian mode, almost a tone poem, followed by Two of a Kind as a bagpipe-style military march.
The final movement reprises Baby Broon before launching into a four-part medley. The powerful strathspey Not From These Parts echoes a small number of older Scottish melodies in the Phrygian mode, often ascribed to trollish or faerie musicians. Parts of this track slip into the Locrian mode, adding a manic edge to the melody. Five is Better is firmly in 4/4 time, so I presume it refers to the five-string fiddle which Patsy plays here: the lack of notes on the tunes is my only real criticism of this release. At the Edge is an atmospheric slow reel, and the final hornpipe Life is Good certainly left me feeling that way. Classical or jazz gurus might mention the counterpoint and structure, the riffs and grooves, but for me these just add depth and lift to what is essentially an excellent recording of contemporary Scottish fiddle. Yes, it blends in other influences. Yes, it pushes the envelope of modes and rhythms. No, I don't mind that: Patsy Reid has done a perfect job of weaving all these strands into one cloth, giving us great width without compromising on quality. Bridging the Gap is definitely in my 2008 top ten.
By ALEX MONAGHAN
Bridging The Gap offers so much more than purely an album of recorded music -- it is an ambitious work of art, that is at times understated, at times sumptuous. Comprising nine original compositions, Reid has masterfully fused classical and Scottish traditional influences in a remarkably mature piece of work that evokes the sounds of such luminaries as Shaun Davey or Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin. That her work merits worthy comparison with such esteemed names is all the more remarkable given that Reid is still in her twenties.
Accompanying Reid are eleven carefully selected musicians who effortlessly combine the poised elegance of classically trained musicians with the fiery passion of traditional music. Including Reid herself, there is a nine-piece string section of double bass, cello, viola and violin/fiddle, with extra muscle provided by guitar, piano and percussion. Bridging The Gap takes the listener on a journey through the seven modern modes of music, with each composition embracing a particular mode within the form of a reel, jig, slow air, march, hornpipe, strathspey or a 7/8 tune. Though sounding very impressive, you don't really need to know all this, as the album stands alone as a wholly engaging and intuitively accomplished piece of work.
Recorded live at Glasgow's Celtic Connections festival in February 2008, the album is split in to three movements, each seamlessly encasing a number of the aforementioned modes and melodies. The reel "Baby Broom" starts off teasingly with a lone fiddle playing out the melody, before you are hit with the full and glorious force of the whole ensemble. Throughout the recording, vivid guitar, double bass and percussion lend a potent rhythmic drive, turning the whole performance in to a real tour de force, and lending an irrefutable appeal alongside the unwavering aplomb of the strings. Of particular beauty is "The Strath Sunrise," a beguiling slow air that demonstrates utmost restraint with a replete arrangement that sounds both reflective and sanguine.
Bridging The Gap is a mighty piece of work for Reid to produce at such an early stage of her career, and is sure to be recognised as a seminal recording, signifying the arrival of a bold and intelligent composition talent. This is an undeniably exceptional piece of work that will stand proud for many years to come. With such quality and depth, the music world really could be Patsy Reid's oyster.
By MIKE WILSON
**** ALTHOUGH easy to overlook amid the ever-burgeoning attractions of Celtic Connections, the festival's New Voices commissions have produced some memorable contributions, and allowed imaginative young musicians a chance to think outside of the usual forms and structures of traditional music. Fiddler Patsy Reid, currently a member of Breabach, brought both her traditional expertise and her classical training to bear on this emblematically titled contribution last year.
The piece is structured in three movements in the manner of a concerto, with Reid as soloist and an excellent ensemble that also features Aidan O'Rourke and Anna Wendy Stevenson among the fiddlers.
Each segment within the movements is based on a traditional form – reel, jig, slow air, march, Strathspey or hornpipe – set in a specific mode, and adds up to an attractive and skilfully assembled work that is coherent, imaginative and beautifully performed.
By KENNY MATHIESON
At the time of recording 'With Complements' Patsy Reid was nineteen and in her third year at Strathclyde University studying Applied Music. Her playing on the said CD is of such maturity and sheer class that one wonders what heights she will achieve in the future, the highest without doubt. She has already won the Glenfiddich Fiddle Championship at Blair Castle in 1998 and 1999.
Patsy is from the village of Knapp in Perthshire. She started to play at the age of eight and when she was ten attended a Natalie MacMaster concert, the effect of this experience was to fire her interest in different fiddle styles. The results of this interest manifests itself on 'With Complements' with beautiful performances of tunes from all parts of Scotland as well as Cape Breton, America and Ireland. She is also a very gifted composer. It is my opinion that it is a sign of great talent and a complement to the composer if modern/self composed tunes do not stick out like the proverbial sore thumb in the overall program, on this score Patsy wins hands down.
With Complements is a CD of the finest fiddle music played with elegance and a deftness of touch second to none. From the delicate and intricate slow airs to lively reels, jigs, strathspeys and marches. Patsy places great importance on appropriate accompaniment to emphasise the different fiddle styles. She is of course correct in thais and could not have chosen better musicians for the task. On different tracks she is joined by Declan Hegarty - Irish Harp, Harvey Beaton - Piano (and one track step-dancing), Gill Simpson - Piano, Keith Morrison - Piano and Guitar and Alasdair White - Bouzouki and Mandolin. WIth Complements is Patsy Reid's debut album and I hope there will be many more. Wonderful stuff and highly recommended.
And what complements they are! Patsy's own skills on fiddle, viola and piano are deservedly well to the fore, but the accompaniments played by her friends really make this a special project. Harvey Beaton from Nova Scotia plays piano - and feet - for the Cape Breton numbers; Alasdair White joins in on bouzouki and mandolin; Keith Morrison points up the piano and guitar, Declan Hegarty plays gorgeous Irish harp, and Gill Simpson tickles the ivories in slow and quick time. Pan-Celtic fiddle superbly played and accompanied; Shetland, New England, Irish, Highland, Orkney Cape Breton....tunes from all over.
This is the debut CD from talented fiddler Patsy Reid from Kanpp in Perthshire. Declan Hegarty (Irish Harp), Harvey Beaton (piano and step-dancing), Gill Simpson (piano), Keith Morrison (piano and guitar) and Alasdair White (bouzouki and mandolin) accompany her on the various tracks.
On this recording Patsy takes us on a musical journey of tunescrossing over to Cape Breton, America, Ireland, Shetland, Orkney and back to mainland Scotland. There are thirteen tracks with varied tempos. Patsy demonstrates her affinity with other Celtic styles and shows her natural talent and ability to pick up and play tunes like a "local". She has a great ear for music and she is not a bad composer either, with a couple of good tunes, one of them called 'Fiona', a relfective slow air where Patsy plays piano and multi-tracks the fiddle and viola parts. (Makes us mere mortals sick with envy at this teenager's massive talent.)
This is a fantastic recording, as it shows Patsy in a totally different light. She is not only a good dance band fiddler, she is a superb all round musician.
With Complements is not a spelling error; it's how Perthshire fiddler, composer and Strathclyde music student Patsy Reid acknowledges the guest musicians on her debut album who complement her own music. These are her fellow student at Strathclyde, Declan Hegarty, who plays harp on three tracks, Dundee-based Gill Simpson, who plays piano on another three, and Nova Scotian step-dancing teacher Harvey Beaton, for whom Patsy plays at his step-dancing classes in Sabhal Mor Ostaig on Skye. Here Harvey offers piano and step-dancing, the latter on the same track as he tickles the ivories - no small feat (no pun intended!) - unless of course I'm a bit behind in e-technology as applied to music.
Patsy is a new talent, equally at home with Scottish, Irish, HIghland and Cape Breton idioms, and on this showing will have no trouble remaining an established but nevertheless exciting talent for as long as she cares to. Incedentally, as so many place names from this magazine's heartland have been mentioned, I might as well go the whole hog and say the record was produced in the heart of the kingdom of Fife.
Perthshire fiddler Patsy Reid's home-produced release, available on her own website, sees the 19-year-old demonstrate why she was named Glenfiddich Fiddle Champion two years running. She dips into Lowland, Irish, Highland and Cape Breton idioms with all the assurance of a native. The eponymous "complements" include Battlefield Band's Alasdair White, harpist Declan Hegarty and various pianoists, among them Nova Scotian Harvey Beaton who adds a spot of step-dance percussion with his flying feet - but their contributions just highlight Reid's Skills.
With Complements, the debut album by the young Scottish Fiddler Patsy Reid, is all about juxtapositions, of instruments and musical styles. Patsy takes lead on all tracks, playing all fiddle and viola parts, and one air on piano, using a number of different accompaniments to complement the different tunes.