Alasdair Fraser,
Muriel Johnstone
& Natalie Haas,
Legacy of the Scottish Fiddle,
Vol. 2

(Culburnie, 2004)

Once upon a time there was a book called The Songs of Robbie Burns by James C. Dick. It was published over a century ago and it contained melodies the Scots poet had set his songs to, along with notes on the context of the music. In later times some of the songs became disconnected from the original melodies.

Now, in 2004, this trio of great musicians have set out to re-unite song and sound -- well, at least to give us the authentic melodies.

Over 21 tracks we are treated to a cornucopia of airs and dance tunes from Scotland of the late 1700s. These are the tunes that were being played and danced and courted to when America was gaining its independence, France was proclaiming fraternity and equality, and Ireland was having a bloody insurrection (which inspired a slew of songs still sung today).

Instrumental music is always more difficult to review, as I cannot give examples of lyrics. What I can tell you is that the playing and the freshness of the airs on offer here blew me away. We are so used to our modern music being so easy on the ear that we too often forget the melodious tunes that our ancestors played and listened to all those years ago.

Hearing tunes like "Muirland Willie" and "O'er the Muir Among the Heather," we can forget the harsh lives that people who loved this music lived over two centuries ago. With comprehensive notes and excellent playing, this is an album that will be treasured by academics, Burns fans and music lovers for decades to come.

There are also some beautiful illustrations in the insert.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 20 November 2004

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