Review written by Mike Wilson and posted under his kind permission. All rights reserved by the author.
Produced by Shona Mooney, this latest volume in the Borders Traditions series sees nine of Scotland's most gifted traditional musicians, gathered together to produce a collection of new instrumental music, taking inspiration from the Borders region. A diverse collection of instruments, including a delicate harp, a varied selection of strings, the punchy border pipes, and the contemporary rhythmic flamboyance of cajon and stomp box, ensure that the pace and flavour is varied throughout. The fact that the entire project was recorded live on just one night, adds further atmosphere; no mean feat when you consider that the musicians had just four days to rehearse!
"On Auld Lauder Licht" is inspired by the Lauder Light Railway, that once linked small border towns to the the main Waverley Line from Edinburgh to Carlisle. The rhythm of the instruments are deployed intelligently to represent the mechanical nature of the old steam trains that would have ploughed the route, starting out at a saunter before building with speed and purpose. Elspeth Smellie's harp chimes with a graceful eloquence to begin "Write A Bar Or Two," luring the other musicians to join her in an ensemble of discerning elegance. "Harp vs. Accordion" finds jazz-soaked guitar flourishes from Innes Watson setting the backdrop for Christopher Keatinge's lithe accordion, in a set that begins with flavours of the continent, while Smellie's harp ripples politely in the background. Martin Marroni's reading of the Border poet W. H. Ogilvie's "The Hill Road to Roberton," is absolutely sublime, with an understated charm and authenticity that is matched by Marroni's subdued composition that beautifully underscores his plaintive voice.
"Cheese Well" completes proceedings; a collaborative composition of three tunes written by all nine musicians. "Hume Castle" begins the set with a suitably commanding grace, winding towards the more muscular melody of the closing tune, "Waverley Route," where the combined resonance of the strings and border pipes give a wonderfully replete sound. The set ends to an understandably rapturous round of applause from the audience.
The decision to record this project as a live concert pays dividends, retaining an air of spontaneity that genuinely brings a touch of magic to the whole recording. This is music that beams with pride, and the celebratory nuances make it impossible not to enjoy.
Visit the Borders Traditions website for more details!
A quote from Celtic Sprite:
The Borders Traditions website is run by Scottish Borders Council Arts Service, with support from the Scottish Arts Council. Borders Traditions website gratefully acknowledges the support of the School of Scottish Studies, the Scottish Traditions of Dance Trust and of all the contributors and collectors, especially Walter Elliot, Fred Freeman, John Hamilton, Karin Ingram, Alison McMorland, Mike Yates, and all other arts practitioners, musicians and singers who appear on this site.