Carleen Frazier-Adlam,
with Shelby Eicher,
On the Scottish Side
(self-produced, 2000)

This recording works so well on so many levels, it's hard to know exactly where to start.

I kept telling myself I'd listen to it "just one more time," but then another few days would pass and I'd still be listening. I finally had to admit that, like reading a great book, I didn't want to come to the end.

As a first attempt, it lacks the lulls and hesitations one might expect to find, and instead steps boldly up front to be heard. Fiddles, to me, are one of the most versatile instruments made, and in the proper hands they spring to life and speak their minds. Tulsa, Okla., native Carleen Frazier-Adlam has such hands. At age 8 she began learning classical violin, but gave it up to attend college, raise her family and have a career in education. Years later she dusted off her violin case and began to play again, only to discover she prefers fiddle music, particularly Scottish fiddle music. Whether it was the long absence from playing, the maturity of her years or the discipline of a teacher turned musician, she definitely knows what she's doing and does it very well.

Accompanying Carleen on the CD is Shelby Eicher, whose bio reads like a musical "Who's Who." He plays an assortment of instruments here, including guitar, mandolin, fiddle, mandola, chin-cello and mandocello. And he is responsible for directing and arranging along with his top-notch back-up contributions. Also from Tulsa, Shelby had a 15-year run as a musician with Roy Clark's band, has played on television as well as the Grand Ole Opry, and teaches various styles of music.

The play-list reads like a fiddle music primer, which is quite helpful to those, such as myself, who wouldn't know a reel from a strathspey (the latter is slower) unless it was pointed out. And while there are only eleven tracks, they are so well arranged, blended and performed you feel as though the music has been playing for hours.

I think it's rare for a non-musician to be able to pick out various instrumentals from a CD and identify them, unless of course the tunes are particular favorites. I'm sure, for instance, any number of listeners would be able to properly identify "Skye Boat Song" or "Scotland the Brave" in under a minute. I've listened to many musicians performing tunes that I knew from the listen, but could not name. So it was a surprise to hear one I do know that is not played to death. "O'er the Moor, Among the Heather" is a personal favorite and this particular recording will step up as the best I've heard to date.

Track six, a collection of Irish jigs, is probably my favorite. "Kesh Jig," the first tune, starts with bodhran, played by bodhran-maker and fellow Texan Albert Alfonso. The fiddle quickly slides in with a sexy whine that lets you know the heat is on and things are getting ready to be very lively. Also featured in this set is Kristal Zwayer on pennywhistle.

If this first release is an indication of what Frazier-Adlam is about, I can't wait to see what else she has in store for us!

[ by Sheree Morrow ]
Rambles: 19 January 2002

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