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The Silver Bow Topic TSCD469

This is another Topic re-release, this time of two complete albums as one C.D., which explains the running-time of 77 minutes. Its 28 tracks include most of the well-known traditional tunes from Shetland, and feature the fiddling of the late great Tom Anderson and his most illustrious pupil, Aly Bain. Also playing fiddle on this album are Trevor Hunter and Davy Tulloch, the latter previously with Hom Bru and Curlew. Half the tracks are unaccompanied fiddling, with two or four fiddles. The other half have unique Shetland accompaniment from Violet Tulloch and Willie Johnson.

The recordings on this album are a piece of history, since they constitute the bulk of Tom Anderson's fiddling on record, and as such they will be in great demand. However, the album also contains a lot of fine tunes and excellent fiddling. The slow airs are particularly beautiful: "Da Slockit Light", "Da Auld Restin' Chair" and "The Silvery Voe", all written and played by Tom Anderson. Add to these the now classic renditions of "The Dean Brig" and "The Banks Hornpipe", or "The Full Rigged Ship", not to mention old favourites such as "Faroe Rum" and "Da Ferrie Reel", and you have a veritable treasury of all that's best in Shetland fiddling.

As I said, the fiddling is of a very high standard: not much scraping to be detected, and the "Ringin' Strings" are all intentional. You really can see where Aly Bain gets it from! The accompaniment is equally deft, whether adding bounce to the quicker tunes or underlining the grace of the slow airs. The mix of duets, trios and ensemble tracks, of traditional and modern Shetland tunes, and of different tempos makes for a very varied album which is easy on the ear: you can listen to the whole thing and still want more. There is also the odd Scottish tune thrown in for good measure, but only where it has stood the test of time.

The Topic recordings of Shetland fiddling were always the best of their kind, and this re-release is extremely welcome to all of us who have admired the island tradition. It also affords a great opportunity for more people to come to love the music of the Shetland Islands.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 4 of The Living Tradition magazine.