Highlander's Farewell: Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas
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 States 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