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Ryan & Brennish Thomson

Updated Feb 2, 2024

Fiddler's Bid Hamnataing

by Ryan Thomson

This album starts off with a bang, featuring high speed reels dominated by multiple fiddles. The second cut features a set of traditional Shetland tunes, led off by a calming piano intro, followed by other instruments gradually coming in, building in intensity, leading to a section with swing style accompaniment, and finally, the fiddles reach dance speed.


The 3rd cut is a slower set which illustrates the beautiful melodies inherent in Shetland tunes. The fourth set reminds me of a Scottish country dance orchestra, although charged up with Shetland style swing accompaniment in a way that one could almost jitterbug to.


The 5th set features an original tune by Catriona written for her parents 25th wedding anniversary, with flowing Scottish harp accompanied by fiddles playing chordal backup in harmony. After a bit the harp emerges as a solo instrument producing a playful melody with touches of minor scales and little dissonances which resolve into joyous celebration.


The 6th set opens with acoustic guitar fingerpicking, and then segues into some fast and furious Irish reels. The CD liner notes name this set as "The African Set," which I believe is a little inside humor, since a recent trend in contemporary instrumental Irish music is to incorporate African rhythms. Unaccompanied harp opens the 7th set with tunes learned at the O'Carolan festival in Keadu, Ireland. The set ends with fiddles playing melody on a beautiful tune called Inisheer.


One of my favorite tunes is a mazurka written by a former fiddler in the band who died from a terminal illness at 21 years of age. Its a piece which makes good use of a violin string section playing in harmony. It switches back and forth from minor to major key in a catchy way.


There's lots of other good tunes on this CD also, including pieces learned from Scottish Fiddler Alisdair Fraser and others. Musicians include the four fiddlers: Christopher Stout; Andrew Gifford; Maurice Henderson; Kevin Henderson; Catriona McKay on harp and piano, Steve Yarrington on guitar, and David Coles on bass guitar.

Written by Ryan Thomson, 1999

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