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ALASDAIR FRASER - 'A Portrait of a Scottish Fiddler' - Culburnie CUL009D

Of all the fiddle traditions of the British Isles, that of Scotland has probably moved closest to the violin in terms of technique. This is probably due to historical existence of a class of professional fiddlers with the time and inclination to extend their instrumental skills. In the last century, after undergoing a thorough classical training (in Manchester!) James Scott Skinner spent much of his practice time working his way through Pagannini violin studies. This has had a knock-on effect with subsequent generations. Alasdair Fraser is an inheritor of this tradition, and with this album - a CD reissue of his first, Canadian produced, recording dating from 1984 - he was already showing the flair and considerable musicianship which have characterised his later work.

I've been entranced by the sound of Alasdair Fraser's fiddle ever since I first heard 'The Driven Bow'. On this recording it's supported by a group of fine Cape Breton players with arrangements written by the pianist and accordion player Bobby Brown. It's probably unfair to pick any one of these out, but as a double-bass player in another life, I can't fail to mention the excellent playing of Paul Langley.

The repertoire is firmly within the Scottish tradition, and there are few, if any, hints of the skydancing Alasdair Fraser of today. There are a significant number of Scott Skinner tunes, including my favourite J S S hornpipe, "The Mathematician", a few anonymous traditional tunes, and many others both by other fiddlers and by pipers.

This is a very fine album. If you are interested in the fiddle music of Scotland and donāt have it on vinyl, (if you have, this review is clearly wasted!!) then may I humbly suggest that you buy it.

Chris Bartram

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This album was reviewed in Issue 24 of The Living Tradition magazine.