Jerry Holland,
The Fiddlesticks Collection
(Fiddlesticks, 1994;
Green Linnet, 1995)

By the mid-1990s, Jerry Holland's name was sweeping the Celtic music world for his tight, distinctive performance style and his many compositions which have enriched the fiddling tradition. For those of us who discovered him too late to hear him in the early days, there's The Fiddlesticks Collection, which provides tracks from several recordings he made from 1982 to 1992, as well as a few previously unreleased tracks.

Believe me, you'll want to hear them. While Holland was not yet at the peak of his musical skill, as evidenced by the more recent Fiddler's Choice, his work here is still quite good. There are fewer of his distinctive ornamental touches, but the tunes are still presented in a strong Cape Breton style. There's plenty to hold your attention.

For instance, there's the astonishly dextrous "Cranking Out/Lively Steps/Garmont Smiddy's Reel" set, which partners Holland with guitarist Grady Poe and the late John Morris Rankin on piano. Dave MacIsaac plays guitar and Hilda Chiasson takes the piano for Holland's excellent strathspey and reel set, "Cutting Ferns/Alex Dan MacIssac's/Brenda Subbert's/Mutt's Favorite/Bernadette's/Lady Gordon of Gordonstown." Holland and MacIsaac pair up for a lovely rendition of Jay Unger's popular waltz, "Ashokan Farewell." The fiddle solo "Reel for Carl," a Holland original, is a study in bow techniques.

As a bonus, there's a fantastic live track closing the album: "Sheehan's Reel/The Flowers of Edinburgh/Miss MacLeod's Reel" featuring Holland, Ralph Dillon on piano, Bruce Timmons on guitar and Berkley Lamey on bass.

There are 20 tracks on The Fiddlesticks Collection in all, comprising 64 tunes, of which Holland wrote 18. There's a lot to learn here for fiddlers interested in improving their art; there's more than enough to captivate fans of fiddle music.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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