Fine Friday,
Mowing the Machair
(Footstompin', 2004)

There will be few readers unfamiliar with the Scots-Irish trio of Anna-Wendy Stevenson (fiddle/viola), Nuala Kennedy (flutes/whistles/vocal) and Kris Drever (guitar, bass and vocal), a trio that emerged from regular Friday night music sessions at Sandy Bells in Edinburgh. With Mowing the Machair, they've remained true to the spontaneous, improvisational feel of the session setting and have produced an imaginatively interpreted collection of traditional songs and tunes collected from the Celtic regions of Cape Breton, Brittany, Scotland and Ireland -- with a few cracking original tunes thrown in by Kennedy. The album offers a good balance of instrumental and vocal tracks.

There are some strong instrumentals: "Lisa Giles," a set featuring tunes by Cape Breton lighthouse keeper Paul Cranford and Scottish bagpipe maker Hamish Moore, is one of those typically perfect sets that builds up beautifully to the liveliest, most tuneful conclusion. Drever's guitar and Stevenson's fiddle drive the tune along, while Kennedy's flute intersperses its magic throughout. Title track "Mowing the Machair" is another great tune, featuring compositions by Kennedy, Cranford, Gilles Le Bigot and Amy Geddes. "Simon's" is a beautifully paced slower track where guitar, flute and fiddle mesh together to magical effect. Kennedy has perfected a melodic, flowing, often percussive playing style.

There are some nice song selections, too: Drever leads on vocal on "The Bleacher Lass of Kelvinhaugh," "When First I Came to Caledonia" and "Gin I Were a Barron's Heir," and Kennedy leads on "The Tide Full In" and sings a very fine keening song adapted to "Ulster Irish" by Padraigin Ni Uallachain.

All in all, this is an album that succeeds in capturing the spontaneity of a lively instrumental session and includes some memorable traditional songs.

- Rambles
written by Debbie Koritsas
published 4 June 2005

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