Ian Melrose,
Between the Sighs
(Slow Motion Records, 1998)

Ian Melrose achieves new depths of expression with his second CD, Between the Sighs. The eleven pieces on this CD, seven of which were composed by Melrose, represent a range of styles and moods. According to the liner notes, they are intended to reflect "that special moment after a sigh has been exhaled and before the next sigh wells up," and Melrose's interpretations reflect thoughtful selection and skillful, evocative execution.

The CD opens with "Nessie's Hornpipe," a jazzy playful piece with a graceful hornpipe lilt dedicated to "the oldest inhabitant of Loch Ness." I'm sure that not only would Nessie approve, but she might be inspired to kick up her heels and take a turn or two. "The Music of Spey" follows, a slow sweet Scottish air by J. Scott Skinner. Melrose's interpretation captures the slightly wistful spirit of the piece.

In the third track, "Locomotion Drift," Melrose alternates smoothly between two musical themes, one representing the relentless motion of a train while the other conveys the soaring daydreams of the passenger, then manages to combine and reconcile the two. "The Genesis of an Artistic Abode" was written for a specific event, the celebration of the foundation of a hand-built house, and the piece expresses both completion and anticipation.

The title of the fifth track, "Spiraling," says it all as the lively melody twirls and spins around itself, then adds the second voice of a slide guitar with its own "spiraling" sound. The two voices intertwine and separate in a musical dance. Next Melrose takes a traditional turn, "marrying" two Irish jigs in "Bessie Murphy's/Brian O'Lynn's." The guitar has just the right light and sprightly sound, and the addition of whistle, bouzouki and bodhran fills out the piece. The transition into "The Sigh of Awakening" is smooth; this piece expresses well the edgy anticipation of what the day will hold.

Melrose continues to paint evocative musical portraits with "Two Scotswomen in Berlin," an original piece dedicated to two friends. The light-hearted rhythmic music suggests busy friends in a busy city -- there is a sense of intimacy beneath the pace which slows to a leisurely gambol for a break, then picks up with the original thread. The traditional "The Hen's March O'er the Midden" is successful in depicting the hen's strut although the "clucking" is a little awkward at times; this is a fiddle tune, and those few bits are likely best managed with a fiddle and bow. Still, it's a fun and merry piece and enjoyable nonetheless.

The title track "Between the Sighs," like "The Sigh of Awakening," also conveys anticipation and excitement, although the music has a much more joyous and less anxious sound. The final track is "Craigelachie Brig," a strathspey by William Marshall, and the stately tune effectively brings the CD to a close.

Overall, Between the Sighs confirms Melrose's growth as a performer since Wolves, which is a fine CD in its own right -- but one would expect a performer to improve on even a good performance. Melrose more than fulfills that expectation with this polished, cohesively arranged CD.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

Buy Between the Sighs from Amazon.com.