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PETE CLARK - "Fiddle Case" - Smiddymade SMD608

Nice cover, excellent notes, and an hour of top-notch traditional music makes this one of the best recent Scottish releases on a small label. The style and repertoire are very Scottish, and Pete Clark has been a familiar figure on the Scottish scene for some time: this solo album is very welcome. Don't think it's all solo Scottish fiddle, though: there are tunes from Europe and the USA, and even a couple of songs, and Pete has enlisted the help of almost everyone he knows to spice up the arrangements with plenty of other instruments. There's a distinct classical feel to some of the pieces with cello and flute parts, and most of the time this works well.

If you want a quick idea of what this album is about, try track six. It kicks off with a bouzouki intro to an 18th-century Ayrshire jig on fiddle and bouzouki, follows that with one of Pete's own tunes adding mandola, continues with a jig by Ron Gonella and a reel by Scott Skinner, and finishes off with the ubiquitous "Maggie's Reel" by Hamish Moore with Duncan Moore playing smallpipes. Brilliant.

Some of the slower tracks are equally impressive. The rendition of "Neil Gow's Lament for his Second Wife" is the best I can recall, and "Maura Leahy's Waltz" is stunning, helped by the unmistakable fingers of Sandy Brechin. The singing of Rod Paterson is similarly unmistakable on the two songs, neither of which would be incongruous on an Easy Club CD. "Michael Og" and the pair of waltzes for Nona Clark and Sarah Lindsay deserve a mention too.

Sandy Brechin's hand is in evidence again on the final up-tempo set, two more tunes from Pete's pen (nine in total on this album) and Sandy's own reel "Sometimes it Doesn't Work", a great tune and an even better title. On balance, though, it's the slower tracks which come across best.

No serious complaints: particularly recommended for devotees of Scottish fiddle music.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 23 of The Living Tradition magazine.