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RONAN MARTIN - Ronan Martin

RONAN MARTIN - Ronan Martin
Own Label WILDCD101

Skyeman Ronan Martin was tempted out of his design workshop by fellow fiddler Jonny Hardie, who plays back-up guitar on this recording.  Whether by the mythical warmth of Aberdonian hospitality, or the unaccustomed smoothness of east coast malts, Ronan's playing here is inspired and energised.  From the strutting steps of The Hen's March to the final driving notes of Mrs MacPherson, this is west highland fiddle music in the old style, with knobs on.  Ronan's repertoire is full of west coast classics: Isabelle Blackley, Bogan Lochan, The Bonawe Highlanders, Put Me in the Big Chest, The Sprig of Ivy, The Nine Pint Coggie, Kenny MacDonald's Jig and then a Cape Breton style nine-minute medley of strathspeys and reels.  Big tunes boldly played, with minimal mucking about.

Many of these melodies would also fit on the highland pipes, and the style has been influenced by pipers, but this is fiddle music through and through.  The rapid runs, the dancing bow, the double-stopping and glissando ornamentation all mould a tune such as Cuir Sa Chiste Mhor Mi to the fiddle. Many of the nuances of west highland music come from the Gaelic language which was shared by pipers and fiddlers, so the shape of a strathspey like Cha Toir Iain Mor an Nighean Dhohm is dictated by the words of the associated mouth-music which also shaped the piping version: chicken and egg in many cases, but the Gaelic language definitely gives a recognisable character to this music.  Nowhere is this more true than in the Gaelic slow airs such as Nuair a Chi Thu Caileag Bhoidheach, played beautifully here.  As far as I am aware, there are no words to the more recent air The New House in St Peter's, which Ronan interprets with equal passion and skill.  The final two tracks step slightly out of the box: a super-slow version of The Humours of Cork contrasts with an eclectic selection of reels which ends on G S McLennan's legendary Mrs MacPherson of Inveran.  Powerful stuff!

Alex Monaghan
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This album was reviewed in Issue 82 of The Living Tradition magazine.