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EILIDH SHAW - "Heepirumbo" - Greentrax CDTRAX131

Eilidh Shaw's debut fiddle album virtually shouts at you to listen, succeeding with its bold and colourful front cover, and the intriguing title "Heepirumbo". And if this title is a modern interpretation of an old vocal phrase, perhaps from waulking songs or mouth music, it has been tastefully updated. For on her debut, this is what Eilidh Shaw has done; taken many elements of the Scottish fiddle tradition- some old tunes, and some new tunes, and installed them safely in a contemporary context.

The confidence and individuality portrayed by the sleeve cover continues in the album content, but with more subtlety and style, in tracks such as "Liz Carrol's" where Eilidh Shaw makes these hornpipes-come-strathspeys float effortlessly on the fiddle, above the superb guitar genius of Ian Carr, who also produced the album.

"My Dad Paddy" displays equal flair. Written by Eilidh herself, it seems to dance around, challenging any range of notes and rhythms. The rest of this set, although relaxed and steady in its pace, exhibits strength and control. The accompaniment of Donald Hay on drums, Ronnie Rae on double bass and Ian Carr on guitar, is enjoyably unpredictable. The guitar may fade, the bass may take over, then more emphasis again on guitar. Although on "The Sunset" this is a little disjointed, here it adds a little bit of uncertainty, keeping you on your toes, and wondering what wonderful melodic concoctions are going to surprise your musical senses next.

And "The 70th Year", composed by Capercaillie's Charlie McKerron does this. Eilidh's fiddling here is fluent, then she adds a bit of traditional mouth music; the word 'heepirumbo' pops up a few times where the tune and phrasing allows. This blend of fiddle and vocals is very easy on the ear, and the jazz piano of Brian Kellock adds the tasteful, finishing touch. It is understandable from the originality of this arrangement, why Eilidh states it is a "hit single", and most definitely a "tune for the millennium".

In this same contemporary category, "Ludovic Morrison's Favourite" must also be included, as the swing into this tune really lifts the whole set. With Tony McManus accompanying on guitar, the simplicity of this tune makes it one of my favourites.

Although there is a relaxed approach to many of the sets on this album, this doesn't mean Eilidh Shaw doesn't like to attack once in a while. When things get fast and furious, in "Bowjob", Eilidh Shaw and amazing guest fiddler Simon Bradley really let loose. The tone and quality still remain consistent though. The "Highfield Jigs" show the same determination, as the Eilidh and Simon again, feet tapping included, invigorate these very old tunes with some new life.

I'd say "Heepirumbo" exudes individuality, personality, and lots of originality, and with so many first-class tracks to choose from, it is difficult to say which kind of approach Eilidh Shaw handles best. But judging from her capability to adjust to so many different styles, this diversity seems to place Eilidh Shaw, and her debut album among the best.

Frances Morton

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This album was reviewed in Issue 25 of The Living Tradition magazine.