Phamie Gow,
Dancing Hands
(Wildfire, 2005)

Dancing Hands encapsulates the way many contemporary Celtic musicians are reinventing their tradition. Phamie Gow is an accomplished harpist, accordionist and pianist from Scotland, and her infectious, melodious original compositions make for wonderful listening. The bright clarity of her harp playing is never more appealing than on the excellent "Highflier," where a gorgeous tune inspired by aerial views of Edinburgh metamorphoses into a joyful dance reel. "Dancing Hands" describes Phamie's hands perfectly!

More varied world influences creep in with the Gallic-tinged accordion of "Breton Dance Step," and Eastern images fill the mind when tablas punctuate the crispness of the harp in "Indian Summer." A jazz vibe infuses "TGV Set," and "Rain" positively sparkles -- pristine notes "bounce," just as rain bounces off a pavement.

"Harp Beats" is a real stunner, tucked away as a bonus track. Excellent programming results in a deliciously "trancey" feel, with ambient grooves subtly enveloping a gorgeous harp tune. The punchiness of percussion, bass and guitars gives the album a strong sense of coherence and structure. Fraser Fifield, on whistle and soprano sax, is a very fine contributor, too.

The album would stand tall as an instrumental recording, but it's enhanced by the presence of two very enjoyable vocal tracks: "Sorchar nan Reul" is a Gaelic hymn from Carmina Gadelica, Vol.1, set to a lovely tune by Phamie, and here it's beautifully sung by Traditional Musician Award-winner James Graham. There's another fine guest vocal from acclaimed Scottish musician Karine Polwart, here singing a song dedicated to lives lost at sea.

Dancing Hands will have strong appeal for those who enjoy traditional instrumentation in a modern setting, and who simply love to hear great tunes, immaculately played.

by Debbie Koritsas
8 July 2006

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