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DAGGER GORDON "The Frozen River" Dagger Music DAGCD2

This is the first solo release by Dagger since his "Highland Mandolin", way back 1988, and the initial reaction has to be : why the hell did you wait so long, Dagger? In addition to mandolin, Dagger plays Cittern, guitar, tenor banjo and tin whistle, and he is accompanied here by Andy Thorburn, piano and Hammond organ; Graeme Scott, fiddle; Mike Simpson, guitar; Melanie Simpson, accordion; Duncan MacGillivray, Highland pipes; and Alan Harfield, flute. The collective result is a CD of nearly all self-composed tunes, which reflect on Dagger's life in the Scottish Highlands. All I can say about that is that his life in the Highlands has been a rich tapestry indeed, as these numbers range from thoughtfully contemplative to all-out jollity.

The title track, sponsored by Highland Council for the 2000Highland Festival, is a beautifully melodic slow air, which with the Strathspey The Thaw and the reels Bursting The Banks and Down To The Sea, not only give a standard combination of tune combinations, but also allow a mental imagery of the river to be formed. Another tune, The Dingwall Jig, was commissioned by Ross and Cromarty District Council. Is this the type of partnership other musicians and Councils could enter? If not, why not?

As you would expect from the line-up, the playing is of a consistently high standard, with enough variation in instrumentation and pace to keep the interest throughout. Dagger's playing style always has a brightness and sparkle to it that gives his music a verve and dynamism all of its own. Please, Dagger, don't wait another thirteen years before the next one!

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 48 of The Living Tradition magazine.