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RICHARD WOOD "The Celtic Touch" Iona IRCD042

There's a great deal of British Isles traditional music surviving in the Canadian Maritimes, although you could be forgiven for thinking, nowadays, that the sole fount of all good things traditional was somewhere in the region of Cape Breton Island! Of course, that's not the case. And there are the very strong links, for example, which Newfoundland has with the English West Country. On this CD we have a spectacular young Scottish-Canadian fiddle player from Prince Edward Island, Richard Wood.

Richard Wood was not yet twenty when he recorded this, his second album, and he reveals himself not only as the possessor not only of very considerable chops, but also as a genuinely sensitive musician. His performances of his laments, "The Celtic Touch" and "Memories of Dot MacKinnon" bear ample witness. His own dance tunes are also fresh, and well worth a listen.

Richard's technique and tone are very "Scottish", yet unlike most Scottish fiddlers, he appears from the cover photograph, to hold his fiddle in the old way, and not to use classical violin technique. I'd like to see him play.

The rest of the band are competent, rather than distinguished, with an ensemble sound which moves from "Scottish Country Dance Band" complete with traditionally relentless descending unison bass lines on piano and (electric) bass, to soft folk-rock with string synth. There are occasional sparks, such as in the final set of reels, but in the main they simply do their job of supporting the soloist.

On the downside, I did find the band arrangements a mite repetitive: in particular, I felt that the drummer, Maurice Nadeau should have been encouraged to be a little more flexible with his bass drum. After half the album had passed I found his habit of resolutely placing a bass drum hit on every on-beat decidedly irritating, and also began to wonder if his kit had a snare drum!

There's nothing really ground-breaking on this CD, but perhaps that's not the point. It's certainly worth a listen, and I look forward to hearing future albums from this prodigiously talented young man.

Chris Bartram

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This album was reviewed in Issue 20 of The Living Tradition magazine.