As you all know, recently Retro went to a magnificently muddy music festival at Wickham.
Nothing for me, I thought until I started reading about and listening to YT clips of some of the artists who were playing: Gadarene, Manran, Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman, Old Blind Dogs, Will Pound, Tide Lines, Tankus the Henge, Lindisfarne, Fairport Convention, Peatbog Fairies, Van Morrison….Rather a decent line up. And a lot of new names to me.
Watching some YT clips however, there was one musician who really hit the spot for me from the first note: Scottish fiddler, Duncan Chisholm. I was deeply impressed. The beauty of the melodies. The authority and lyricism in his playing. His superb technique which is not just flashy pyrotechnics. The tune is always the thing.
The Cheshire Cat says it far better than I can.
”I first saw Duncan Chisholm at Folk at the Hall in 2014, just as his straths trilogy was coming out. I’m pretty sure he had Jarlath (Henderson) with him then as well. I was awestruck. It had the quality of a classical chamber performance, yet with roots authenticity.”
As for me, I sat entranced. The fiddle is a potent instrument. Now I know how a melancholy, lady, Swedish lumberjack felt when, deep in the forest, she stumbled across a river and there on a rock, bollock-naked, was the river sprite, the Näcken, fiddling away vigorously.
Chisholm has been playing for years but I had never heard of him. The Scots among you will doubtless be chuckling about my ignorance of this formidable Caledonian National Treasure.
I will now let that Maestro of Mud, Retropath2, provide some background:
“Chisholm really is a class talent. Uncertain if you appreciated it, but he was initially “just” the fiddle player in Wolfstone, the purists’ preference to Runrig, seen initially as Ivan (father of Kris, of Lau fame) Drever’s band. They had a superb run of albums in the 80s, ahead of Drever leaving. Chisholm kept the flag flying, and, very intermittently, still does.
But it is his instrumental and largely fiddle-based album that have nailed him to the map and to be a perennial in the Alba Trad awards. The triad of Farrar (2008), Canaich (2010) and Affric (2012) are almost transcendently good. But he doesn’t bask in none but his own prowess, always having alongside him the cream of the best instrumental players at hand, giving them also space to shine, on record and, especially, live. He added a 4th, Sandwood, to that run, in 2018, it being the bulk of his current live set. Interestingly, while he can pen a decent air without effort, or, probably, a great deal of it, he is happy also to showcase the music of others and of, old favourite, trad. arr.
Decent bloke too, it seems. Spotting him wandering through the crowd, ahead of his show, at Wickham, with a small box of merch for the selling table, I took the opportunity to have a brief chat, he coming across as quite shy and astonished to be recognised. (I dare say not the case in Edinburgh or Inverness.”
Taking a look at Duncan’s Facebook page, I stumbled across something rather special.
Just search for #tunewithaview on FB and you will find clips of him playing in different locations in Scotland. Very enjoyable
So that was my latest discovery. Have any of you a favourite, old or new, that you feel we should know about?
Please brighten up our weekends by telling us about singers, painters, novelists, accordion players, Australian snakes, film directors, painters, ice-skaters, glove puppets, poets, sculptors, chefs, composers etc etc that really ought to be on our radar.
I’m off to find sizzling new fiddling fireworks: from Finland to Finnistere, from the Faroe Islands to Florida.