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High Strings - Oceans Apart
HIGH STRINGS - "Oceans Apart" - Highlander Music HRMCD003

I have mentioned before that the musical tradition of Shetland is one of the healthiest anywhere. I can, however, remember when recorded examples of Shetland fiddle music were almost impossible to obtain. A situation that was corrected in the 70s by fine releases from Topic, Leader, Tangent and others, much of this material is still available having been reissued on CD, and there have been excellent recent releases from Greentrax, Veesik, etc. Now we have "Oceans Apart" by High Strings.

High Strings consists of pupils of the Anderson High School and was formed in 1995 by Margaret Couper. There are twenty-six musicians credited on the sleeve, twenty-three fiddlers with drums, bass and piano. One of the fiddlers, Isla Anderson, also contributes two fine vocals. There is also a guest appearance by Shetland Youth Jazz.

As the title suggests the repertoire is drawn from many quarters with tunes from Scotland, Norway, Canada, Ireland, USA, and elsewhere, ranging from traditional folk tunes to arrangements of popular songs with a little jazz and cajun for good measure. I think it is a very nice touch that one of the vocals, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is a tribute to Willie Johnson.

The music on "Oceans Apart" is skillfully arranged and flawlessly performed in the large fiddle group tradition. While firmly rooted in the Shetland style this smooth, interesting and very entertaining music may not be quite "down home" enough for some tastes, not many I'm sure. Overall a very enjoyable CD, from a group of talented young musicians.

Danny Saunders

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This album was reviewed in Issue 28 of The Living Tradition magazine.