seasoning of Northumbrian
tunes combine with Irish and a few Scottish tunes in graceful, light, relaxed
instrumental performances that are totally without gimmicks or glitz. I really enjoy the
mix of tunes on Bridges (as well as the performances), and that
while there are some familiar tunes on the album, none of them
are over-played--few appear on more than one other recording in my collection.
The performances are
very thoughtfully arranged (there are not any sets that are (for instance), three
similar-sounding jigs played in the same style by the same instruments, all
playing all the time) and I really like the changes in mood within cuts.
instance, the Scottish tune Cutting Bracken starts as a slow air for
fiddle and then changes into a fairly gutsy strathspey; the set finishes with an Irish
reel, The Musical Priest. A set that features Scottish
smallpipes combines a Scottish march, a strathspey (a really neat version of The
Laird of Drumblair) and a Scottish reel.
Lovely whistle playing featured in Molly St. George is joined
by fiddle as the musicians move into Give Me Your Hand. The fiddle then takes
over for the set dance Madame Bonaparte.
The album closes with a set that starts with
Nathaniel Gow's Lament and ends with three Irish jigs.
From Northumbria, Sir Sydney Smith's March features the concertina and
has a lively feel with an accompaniment that propels it along very nicely,
and waltzes feature the Northumbrian smallpipes in a sweet and expressive
arrangement. The concertina also provides a deft lead on a set of
three well-known Irish reels (The Wise Maid, Sporting Paddy, and The Copperplate).
As I said earlier, the variety is impressive. As well as the tunes mentioned it includes a set
of lively polkas from Kerry; several jigs and hornpipes, and Carolan's
Draught (but in an arrangement that doesn't do anything for me, making
it the only cut that I don't like strongly!).
In addition to the variety, I very much admire the pure musicality: nothing is
played too heavily or with any over-inflated sense of self-importance or
with what sounds like any attempt to impress the listener.
The musicians' sound is light and they play very much together; this is
another group that gives me the impression that they've played together
for ages and do it for fun; they'd just as soon be sitting on the porch as
in the studio. These sets are well arranged, however; different instrument
come in and out, accompaniments changes.
Rating: A. This is an album I can listen to repeatedly and will come
back to enjoy many times.