I’ll admit that I am in no way a follower of the comings and goings of violin music. I know what a violin is, I’ve heard it played on occasion and, like most people I would guess, I associate the instrument with classical, bluegrass or solemn folk music. Outside of these genres I struggle to find a home for the humble violin (perhaps maybe in jazz where I know of a few players) so when an album popped up that was duet violins, played by a husband and wife I wondered what I was in store for.

Well I’m pleased to announce that not only was I surprised by the durability of the instrument but I really enjoyed hearing it in different contexts, tackling different genres and, in the more than capable hands of Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy, I found the music instantly enjoyable.

What I didn’t know is that MacMaster and Leahy are somewhat of superstars of the instrument and the go-to pairing for artists such as Shania Twain!

It’s easy to see why, the violin is showcased here but supported by a full band tackling styles like celtic folk (think Riverdance!) on ‘Colour Theory’ and ‘Dance Arnold Dance’, a beautifully positioned ballad in ‘So You Love’ (which features Yo Yo Ma), the Spanish-tinged ‘Galicia’ before the playing changes again on the fantastically titled ‘The case of the Mysterious Squabbyquash’ with something that falls between country and something that metal band Dream Theater would happily tackle.

I immediately find myself thinking of the rugged coastline of Scotland and Ireland on ‘East Neuk of Fife’ and ‘The Laird of Bemersyde’ with its ode to the traditional folk of these areas, you can almost taste the sea spray and the whiskey as the music plays and another day ends. It’s beautiful and an ideal place to stop and listen.

‘Woman of the House’ (featuring Rhiannon Giddens) will probably get the headlines, it’s blend of country and Gaelic fuses perfectly. It’s toe-tapping rhythm sits beneath the vocals and violins and is a perfect fusion of styles.

I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting much here, I arrived thinking it would be highbrow and for fans of the instrument but I was wrong, incredibly wrong because it’s just good music played by good musicians that appreciate the history and the genres that the instrument commands, but then it’s pulled up to date and pushes at your expectations.


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