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Album Cover Crossing to Scotland
Abby Newton ('cello) with Alasdair Fraser (fiddle); Kim Robertson (celtic harp); Paul Machlis (piano); Al Petteway (guitar); David Hornung (accordion); Scott Petito (upright bass). 15 tracks; 57'01". Culburnie Records, 800-830-6296.
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Before the piano, the 'cello was the instrument used to accompany dance music in Scotland. Abby Newton has made it her mission to re-establish that tradition, and she does it with grace, love, and lyricism. On this, her first solo CD, she brings us dance music in many forms as well as a few airs.

The music ranges from ancient Greenland/Shetland music to tunes from some of the major 19th-century collections and even a few 20th-century compositions (composers include Alasdair Fraser and Daithi Sproule). The airs on the album are absolutely timeless; the dance tunes are rounded and relaxed; and her O'Carolan ("Loftus Jones" and his "Draught") sounds like movements from Bach 'cello suites. On the other hand, her arrangement of "Tarbolton Lodge" is very much flavored by the playful new-acoustic sound that Alasdair Fraser and Paul Machlis have in some of their albums.

A few months ago I had the pleasure of attending a workshop in 18th century performance practice as applied to dance music, and Abby Newton plays with much of the same styling that I heard there. Her playing is thoughtful, with a Baroque performer's attention paid to the beginning, middle and end of each note.

This is the most absolutely elegant album I've heard in a long time, and one that easily makes my A+ list. And one of its pleasures is its contrast to the more fast, driving music found on the other CDs reviewed this month. The 'cello has always been the instrument I'd want to be shipwrecked on a desert island with; now I know who I'd want to have there to play it. Rating: A+.

David Marcus  
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