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PAUL ANDERSON "The Singing Land " Moidart Music MOICD 021

The name Paul Anderson may be familiar from Shetland group Rock Salt & Nails, or from his other life as a pillar of the Scottish accordion and fiddle scene, for Paul is a fiddler with one foot in the past and the other foot in the future of Scottish music. Fortunately, he has very long legs. Since his first solo album The Journey Home, Paul has matured into one of Scotland's finest young fiddlers, branching out from his roots near Banchory to embrace fiddle styles from Shetland to Galloway and beyond. The Singing Land is his third recording, and marks a return to the grand old music of the North East, strathspeys and reels, big pipe jigs and graceful airs: the influence of Gow, Marshall, and Skinner is obvious, but every tune on this CD was written by Paul.

Paul Anderson's style is an amalgam of energy and control. The sound is powerful enough for big strathspeys like his Cromar and Balvenie, yet dextrous enough for the upper octaves of the fiddle compass. He can hack a breakneck reel such as The Tarland Curlers, or coax honeyed sweetness from the gorgeous airs Miss Strathbogie and Luskentyre. It's not all Scottish fare, either: there's a great pair of Americana waltzes, and more than a nod to the Irish tradition. The occasional scrapes and snatches only serve to add character: I like my fiddling to have a few rough edges.

This is not a solo fiddle album as we usually understand the term. Most tracks are fiddle led, but Paul has assembled quite a large band of accomplices, notably Charlie McKerron, Tony McManus and Graeme Mitchell. There's some show-stopping stuff from a pair of pipe-band drummers on the top-class jig The Mighty Norman Anderson, and Paul gives way to accordion, whistle or piano from time to time. There's even a live ceilidh track. Plenty of variety all round, and the tunes are a credit to Scottish music: the worst I could say is that Paul's timing can be slightly eccentric, but the notes are always spot on. Most of the tracks have been carefully arranged, and the overall sound is excellent with some interesting mixes, although the backing can be a wee bit heavy at times. Whether it's new tunes, fresh arrangements, or just fine fiddling you're after, this CD is worth looking out for:

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 52 of The Living Tradition magazine.