Ian Melrose,
A Scottish Legacy
(Acoustic Music, 2001)

Bow down -- a guitar god is in the house, or at least in the CD player. In a breathtaking 52 minutes, Ian Melrose graces us with 15 tracks and 21 Scottish fiddle tunes played on the acoustic and slide guitars. When it's all over, we're agog at his virtuosity, but also blessed for the beauty he's brought us, all for the cost of a CD.

With the first track, "Mrs. McLeod," we know what we're in for. Melrose keeps the rhythm going constantly, the melody strong, the vibrant harmonies underneath, using overtones for accents ... this is guitar playing of the highest caliber. "Mairi Bhan Og" slows us down to haunting single string style, picking up the tempo and mood with "The Mackay's March."

The CD is filled with wonderful music, but a few stand out for special notice. "Andrew Carr/Rattlin' Roarin' Willie" is a fine medley that illustrates how to play trap drums tastefully. "The Music O' Spey" is a glorious air, full and rich, and "The Mathematician" is a grand hornpipe, with slide guitar work that approaches ragtime. There's a toe-tapping jig medley of "Bonnie Strathmore" and "My Mither's Aye Glowerin' at Me" played on slide guitar that shows clearly the link between Scots and American mountain music. Neil Gow's "Farewell to Whisky" is played slowly, as a true lament for the loss of the water of life. "Lochaber No More" is a lovely slow waltz played by slide guitar and fretless bass, and although "Neil Gow's Lament for the Death of His Second Wife" doesn't quite weep the way that it does when a fiddle plays it, it's performed beautifully.

All in all, this is a marvelous CD filled with spectacular guitar work, sometimes fast and intricate, sometimes slow and thoughtful. Melrose will hold your interest throughout, for his ability and his musicianship are equally high. A splendid album.

[ by Chet Williamson ]
Rambles: 4 May 2002