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Ryan & Brennish Thomson

Updated Feb 2, 2024

Crystal Clear

Solo Violin CD by Cape Breton Fiddler Jerry Holland

By Ryan Thomson

When I traveled in Ireland and England in the summer of 2000 I found Jerry Holland's music being played at several of the pub sessions I attended, even in obscure localities. This is an example of his major influence on the world of traditional Celtic music today. The reason, of course, is that he is both a great player, and a prolific composer of catchy tunes. His music leans heavily toward that of Cape Breton, but in it I also hear Irish and Scottish influences. 


Cape Breton fiddling is a subset of Scottish fiddling, but there there are some subtle differences between what a Cape Breton fiddler and fiddler trained in Scotland might do with the same tune. Jerry's influence is helping to blur these differences, and also those between Irish and Scottish fiddling, as many younger fiddlers in these several locations are absorbing his magnificent sound and style and blending it into tunes from their respective traditions. I've had the pleasure of sitting close to Jerry at informal jam sessions and listening to him play. He plays with a rare fire.


This CD is a "must have" item for the collector of Celtic fiddle recordings because it is a sort of "mini encyclopedia" of Celtic fiddle music. It consists of medleys of solo fiddle tunes. I counted 62 tunes in all, in 20 different medleys. The big advantage of solo fiddle is that you get more fiddle for your buck(and listening enjoyment) than if there were other instruments in the mix. This only works if the playing is extraordinary. It is. 


The liner notes mention the high quality of his "Austrian" violin with its "deep soaring tone" but of course its really Jerry's excellent playing that's coming through here. Jerry has played this particular fiddle since he was 10 years old however, so there has been plenty of time for a certain kinship to develop between man and fiddle. My guess is that the triple combination of high quality music making, the Austrian fiddle, and the excellent recording and production of this CD will stimulate its popularity through word of mouth of the listeners. I hope so. 


Being a full time fiddler, I do have a critical ear, but I can honestly say that I liked everything I heard. The music consists of original tunes by Jerry Holland and several of his friends, and traditional tunes from Ireland, Cape Breton, and Scotland. Tune types include jigs, reels, hornpipes, strathspeys, marches, slow aires, and a waltz, There are too many tunes to name. The promotional copy I received for review was distributed by "Portland America" who can be contacted at 1-800-797-3868. For more specific tune information I refer readers to Jerry Holland's web site at:

Written by Ryan Thomson, 1996

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