Kimberley Fraser,
Heart Behind the Bow
(self-produced, 1999)

In the liner notes that accompany this album, Fred Lavery describes Kimberley Fraser as "the seventeen year old with the hundred year old sound." I couldn't agree more. Fraser's music shows a maturity well beyond her years, and a style that is already quite defined. This versatile musician has produced a lively album that includes a good selection of tunes, excellent instrumentals and a variety of material.

Fraser herself plays fiddle and piano on this recording with equal agility and presence. She is joined by a number of familiar and talented musicians -- Troy MacGillvray, Sheumas MacNeil and Tracey Dares take turns on piano accompaniment, Gordie Samson capably adds guitar, and Ed Woodsworth and Matt Foulds are heard on bass and drums in a couple of tracks.

One of the things I like best about this album is Fraser's style. Light and airy, she has the ability to make her music sound fun, something that is often lost in the transition from live music to a studio recording. Fraser puts an abundance of expression and passion into her playing, making the listener want to hear more. And although her style clearly shines through in everything she plays, Fraser manages to change moods with the music at hand. Having a number of different piano accompanists on the album serves to enhance this effect and adds character to the recording.

Another great characteristic of this album is the mix of tunes. Fraser has selected interesting and varied sets. The album begins with "The Firefly," a fine set of clogs and hornpipes that really highlights Fraser's talent as a fiddler. Next, we hear a very danceable group of jigs, then "The Irish Set" of reels. She slows things down for the air "Killicrankie," which is very well done. Fraser's playing is clear and expressive, beautifully complemented by MacNeil's piano.

"Tamerack 'er Down" is a fabulus set -- march, strathspeys and reels -- comprising both traditional and contemporary tunes, and simply begging one's feet to get moving. For the next track, Fraser plays a solo set on the piano, underlining her versatility as a musician. As with the fiddle, Fraser's playing is light and airy, including lots of interesting variations in both chording and melody as her nimble fingers fly over the keyboard.

The rest of the album continues in the same vein, providing lively sets with wonderfully varying themes. "The Orange Blossom," a set comprising a polka and a couple of old-time country tunes, really impressed me. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of the old-time country stuff, but in this case I have to make an exception. Fraser's style is particulary well-suited to these pieces and produces a brilliant sound -- exuberant and well-paced -- that is matched by MacGillvary's accompaniment. Fraser slows the pace again for the final track, another beautifully played air with light piano accompaniment by MacNeil.

I must say that I am really looking forward to the next album by this young talent. In the two years since this album was produced, I have heard Fraser play several times, and her musical talents continue to mature and grow. Although this is a wonderful recording in its own right, and will be enjoyed by fiddle enthusiasts, I anticipate even greater things from Fraser in the future.

[ by Cheryl Turner ]
Rambles: 26 January 2002