James Scott Skinner,
The Strathspey King
(Temple, 2002)

This is more than a CD, it is a historical record. It is re-mastered selection from recordings dating back to 1905-1922. The tracks were released on the famous Topic label back in the 1970s but Temple Records have re-processed them to remove as much of the surface noise as possible.

James Scott Skinner was born 160 years ago in rural Scotland. Now, in 2003, you can hear him play a wide selection of pieces. His story, as recounted in the insert booklet, is the stuff of legend. He played light classical music as part of a troupe of boys aged 8 to 15 years called Dr Mark's Little Men. He is said to have been capable of playing while doing a back somersault over a couch.

Many of the tunes on offer may be familiar while others have lost popularity in the 80 years since they were recorded. The opening bars of "The Bonnie Lass o' Bon Accord," one of Skinner's original pieces, are inscribed on his tombstone.

Country dance music is represented by "Triumph Country Dance," a medley that includes "Left Handed Fiddler," "Speed the Plough" and "Devil among the Tailors." "Home Sweet Home" is a well-known tune that provides the title and introduction to a medley that seems to celebrate a man and the cottage he gave rent free to Skinner -- hence the name.

"The President" is a tune that displays a wide range of styles and effects. The people at Temple Records have provided the processed and unprocessed versions for us to appreciate the work done in preserving these tracks. It is a revelation in itself to hear these.

This CD may not appeal to all but if you enjoy fiddle music it is a must for your collection. The insert booklet is a mine of information on the man, his times and the music that delighted our grandparents.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 19 July 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.