Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Highlander's Farewell: Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas

Time was, several centuries ago when musical conversation between fiddle and cello defined the beat of popular dance music in Scotland. In recent years, Alasdair Fraser and natalie Haas have picked up that conversation. Keeping tradition in mind, they have taken it in new directions, too based in their own creativity and willingness to trust their ability to do that.

On their album Highlander's Farewell, they offer a musical journey which moves from the Highlands of Scotland to the lowlands, to Ireland, to Appalachia in the southern United States, to California, to Cape Breton, Spain, and back again. The title track is a strathspey which opens a four tune set, a set which finds the tune itself taking a trip from the Scottish Highland to Ireland and over to the Appalachian mountains. You can almost see the smokey mist which often pervades the air in the Highlands through the opening notes of the strathspey. Picking up its steps a bit as a reel and then a jig in Ireland, in the hands of Fraser and Haas it finds its way to the southern mountain of the United highlanders farewell coverStates as a lively breakdown. The Jig Runrig set brings things back with fast paced dance to Scotland. Two tunes by Scottish composer Nathaniel Gow take things on a quieter turn, as they are laments. A pipe hornpipe from the Uists in the Hebrides is paired with a contemporary tune from the work of the ever inventive piper Gordon Duncan. There are three original tunes by Fraser on the disc, among them McLaughlin’s Strathspey, which he wrote as a wedding gift for two friends. There is a set of Galician tunes, a classical sounding touch with La Sansonette, and Gloomy Winter’s Noo Awa, a tune in which you may hear the echoes of the melody of several familiar songs.

There are thirteen sets in all, each flowing naturally from the other and with the brighter notes from Fraser’s fiddle being framed by and then framing the darker sound of the cello. Haas and Fraser trade back and forth with rhythm and melody, creating an always engaging and fascinating journey. They are supported by fine musical friends, as well, including Hanneke Cassel in piano and fiddle, Dennis Cahill on guitar, Brittany Haas, Martin Hayes, and Bruce Molsky on fiddle, and others. It is, however, the connection between fiddle and cello which centers the music, inviting listeners along on a journey well worth the taking, and well worth the taking more than once.

aside: I had the chance to see Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas -- and a few special guests-- play this music at a concert during Celtic Connections a few months back. more on that evening to come.

you may also wish to see
Music Road: Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas: In the Moment
Music Road: Scottish music a different way: The Unusual Suspects
Music Road: Celtic Connections 2011:first look

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Kerry Dexter at


Anonymous Vera Marie Badertscher said...

What a beautiful description of seemingly a complex but delightful album. And since you saw them in person, I assume that makes it somewhat easier to characterize their music?

5:03 PM  
Blogger kerry dexter said...

one of the good things about Alasdair and Natalie's music is that while it is quite complex you do not have to know anything about all that to enjoy it thoroughly. I've seen them play several times, though, and it always adds dimension.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous Jane Boursaw said...

I will seek this out - especially being a fiddle player myself.

2:00 PM  
Blogger MyKidsEatSquid said...

Sounds like a beautiful album. I'm looking forward to hearing more about the concert.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Martin Hayes is on Fiddle, it's his duetist Dennis Cahill on Guitar.

11:14 AM  
Blogger kerry dexter said...

you are quite right. my apologies for the error. I've made a change in the article.

4:31 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home