Filska,
Time and Tide
(Highlander, 1998)

Time and Tide is an instrumental album, and the first release by Filska, a dynamic young band from Scotland's Shetland Islands. With many band members still in high school at the time of recording, these young people show a maturity beyond their years.

Filska (which means "mischievous" or "high spirited") certainly lives up to its name. The band is composed of three sisters, Jenna (fiddle), Bethany (fiddle) and Joyce Reid (piano), as well as three other talented musicians: Gemma Wilson (fiddle), Andy Brewer (flute) and Andrew Tulloch (acoustic and bass guitars). All three fiddlers have been winners of Shetland's prestigious "Young Fiddler of the Year" competition.

I have heard many people complain that more than two fiddles at a time is simply too much, but not so with Filska. The arrangements on this album are superb and feature vibrant harmonies with good use of the other instruments. I did not find three fiddles to be overpowering in the least.

The album begins with an energetic set of reels, "Bunjie's Dilemna," which boasts some outstanding harmonies both with the fiddles and the flute. "Lexie McAskill" is another set of reels highlighting the band's lilting Shetland style. Joyce Reid displays her composing prowess in "Tom's Lost the Keys," the first tune in a set of jigs by the same name. The innovative harmonies in this set were quite enjoyable and Andy's flute adds a nice touch.

Joyce and Andrew's "The One Inch Trowel" is a lovely slow air with strong flute and piano solos and a good variety of instrumentation throughout. Following are two sets of jigs: the cheerful "Milltimber Jig" and "Lady Montague," a set with enough ornamentation that I had to wonder if I'd somehow switched to a classical music CD. Filska's Shetland style was particularly apparent in the staccato reels of "Guzzle Together," which had a bouncy, upbeat feel, and "Song for Paul" is another pleasant air written by Joyce.

"Troy's Wedding" is a well-arranged set of jigs -- I particularly liked the way the band presented "The Lark," a traditional tune which is often played a little too forcefully. Phil Cunningham's "Monday Morning," usually played as a reel, has quite a nice sound to it as an air on this album. Next comes a jaunty set of reels, "Brenda Stubbert's" and "The Silver Spire." "Dunns Dings Aa," Filska's final set of reels, begins at a somewhat dogged pace, but picks up by the second tune, becoming toe-tapping material in no time. And Andrew's guitar solo shines in Filska's potent adaptation of the traditional tune, "The Water is Wide."

I recently heard Filska live, and they had some wonderful songs in their show, and so I was slightly disappointed that there were no vocal tracks on the album. However, the spirit with which the band plays, the originality of their arrangements and their pleasant harmonies more than make up for any shortcomings. The original tunes on the album, of which there was a good number, were definitely enjoyable, and I am looking forward to hearing Filska's next album.

[ by Cheryl Turner ]