Alasdair Fraser
& Tony McManus,
Return to Kintail
(Culburnie, 1999)

Return to Kintail enjoys a complete absence of ego.

Fiddler Alasdair Fraser and guitarist Tony McManus are giants in their field. Both Scotsmen command immediate respect for their musical talents, and both have toured and recorded widely to share their gifts with the world. Return to Kintail demonstrates just how good two immensely adept musicians can be when joined for a common purpose.

The album is entirely composed of duets for fiddle or viola and guitar. Both instrumentalists share the spotlight equally, occasionally stepping to the fore or fading into the background as their arrangements demand. They play with the easy familiarity of musicians who have performed together for many years, and they share selections from the Scottish and closely related Cape Breton traditions with exceptional lightness and grace. They're not going for speed or power here -- instead, they both sit back and let the music prove itself without any unnecessary affectations or pomposity.

For definitive versions of tunes including "Roslin Castle," "The Marquis of Huntly," "The Ewie wi' the Crooked Horn," "Calum Sgaire," "Chloe's Passion," "The Highlands of Banffshire," "Na Goisidich," "Sitting in the Stern of a Boat," "The Curlew," "Sleepy Maggie," "The Sweetness of Mary," "Devil in the Kitchen," "The Sound of Mull" and, a personal favorite, "High Road to Linton," include Return to Kintail in heavy rotation on your stereo. You'll be hard-pressed to find better versions of the tunes or an album more evocative of Scotland's rolling hills and glens.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 29 March 2003

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