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PAUL ANDERSON "Granite'" Champion Recordings CHAMPCD04

You don't need to be a fan of Paul Anderson to appreciate the outstanding quality of this album with respect to the choice of material on it or the standard of musicianship and craft shown by this charming farmer loon from Tarland. It is easy to see why Paul is in great demand as a musician; his distinctive North-East playing style is rooted in every sinew and his pride in the music shines through in every track of this album.

As a fellow fiddler, I am reminded of an important point he often makes to his audiences: "what makes Scottish traditional fiddle music stand out above all is its character, passion and emotion", and when a fiddler brings out these qualities, it is memorable. Paul achieves this with consummate skill here with a programme of technically demanding compositions by such luminaries as James Scott Skinner, William Marshall, the Tarland Minstrel Peter Milne and Red Robert Macintosh, laced with a liberal sprinkling of his own work. He ignores the current fashion for playing jigs and reels at the ridiculous flashy speeds that destroy so much of the character of Scottish music and plays everything at the pace they should be played.

The marches march on, the strathspeys have their characteristic grace and controlled aggression, and the jigs and reels bounce along, but what marks Paul out as a master fiddler is his playing of slow airs. His unaccompanied rendition of the haunting Lament for MacCrimmon is heart-rending, with beautifully executed double-stopping in the second half. His self-penned air The Bloody Field of Culloden is full of tragic pathos. Another highlight is Lisa Milne, a stunningly passionate air written for his fiancée, which simply soars like a lark. Finally, his Lament for Bill Reid (VC) is a fitting tribute to a truly brave man.

Special mention must be made of the two featured accompanists - George Donald of Scotland The What? fame and the ubiquitous Tony McManus. Paul could not have chosen two better people to back him here. The piano and guitar accompaniments are equally unobtrusive and perfectly compliment the solo fiddle.

Paul's mentor, Douglas Lawrence, joins him on one of two bonus tracks. Fiddlers will also be interested to know that Paul has just published The Cromar Collection, an extensive collection of his own compositions, which includes all the self-penned tunes on this album. I thoroughly recommend Granite to all lovers of Scottish fiddle music, so get down to your local store and buy it now. It's just brilliant fiddling from a true master!

Colin Douglas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 57 of The Living Tradition magazine.