Fire in the Glen,
Let the Wind Blow High
(self-produced, 2005)

Let the Wind Blow High! is the latest release by Fire in the Glen -- Chet Williamson (vocals/guitar) and Tom Knapp (fiddle/bodhran/backing vocals) -- and it's a fine collection of mainly Irish tunes and songs reinterpreted for the duo format. The reels and jigs are thrashed out at blistering pace, especially tunes like the lightning-quick "Scarce o' Tatties" set ("Did they draw breath recording that one?" I wondered as I listened!), and the lively "Swallowtail Jig/Rakes of Kildare."

Williamson sings these songs in a more traditional vocal style than I personally prefer, but his interpretation keeps them firmly rooted in tradition, and all are performed with much gusto and pleasure -- his voice is well suited to this style of delivery. Much attention is paid to conveying the humour in the lyrics with clarity and liveliness, and the musicians clearly relish singing the lyrics to some of these well-known and lively songs, including "Whup Jamboree," "Courtin' in the Kitchen," "The Night Pat Murphy Died" and many others -- there are 16 tracks here! There are two original songs among the traditional sets: Williamson's sad ballad "Waking Alone" and Knapp's whimsical ditty "From Amish to Irish."

Williamson's acoustic guitar playing provides consistent rhythm, and is easily matched by Knapp's lively, expressive and always resonant fiddle playing. Knapp turns his hand to bodhran on several tracks, and adds brilliant, foot-stomping rhythm to the tune sets -- witness the cracking tune "Sleep Soond ina Morning."

In terms of recording quality, the album has an earthy session feel, and recording engineer Timothy Truman (who also guests on the album) has captured a bright, spontaneous sound. I enjoyed hearing several tunes I know and love getting new treatment here -- particularly "The Kesh Jig," "Da Day Dawns" (given a surprisingly fast-paced interpretation), "Banish Misfortune" and others.

Going completely off track, I was interested to learn that Williamson is the author of several horror and suspense novels. Knapp, of course, is founder and editor of Rambles.NET and a journalist when he's not making music. Both musicians are based in the U.S. and are clearly intensely in touch with their Celtic roots.

If you love your music to give you that live, spontaneous sound, yet remain very faithful to the tradition, this one is for you!

by Debbie Koritsas
1 October 2005

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