Alasdair Fraser
& Natalie Haas,
Fire & Grace
(Culburnie, 2004)

Marry one fiddle to one cello, let the combination loose on a selection of new and traditional music and you create fire and grace. Seldom has an album been so well named. This CD burns with the fire of the music and glides with the grace of the players.

Anyone who recalls the great group Skyedance will have already experienced the inimitable fiddle playing of Alasdair Fraser. He is one of Scotland's most accomplished players and has played numerous live and radio and TV dates. His recording Dawn Dance won Best Celtic Album in 1995, and if anything his playing has improved in the intervening years.

In an unusual collaboration he teams up with cello player -- not the most common instrument in the traditional canon -- on this release. He has chosen a fabulous young player in Natalie Haas. Only in her late teens, she shows a combination of great experience with even greater promise.

The album opens with a great rendition called "Calliope Meets Frank," and this set of tunes sets the tone and pace for the next 65 minutes. The tracks featured may not be instantly recognisable -- except to the true connoisseur -- but they are excellent pieces to showcase the ability and enthusiasm of the duo.

Like most players they are not confined by geography, and one of my favourite pieces has a title of "The Scandinavian," which takes two tunes -- "Slang Polka" and "Rumbling Quadrille" -- and develops a fascinating sound. For a slow air, you will not do better than a composition of Tom Anderson called "Da Slockit Light," whatever that means. This track brings both instruments to the fore and is a delight.

This album is a revelation of what a bit of affectionate experimentation can do for a tradition.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 12 June 2004

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