This is a selection of 16 tracks recorded in 1988 for Scottish TV live in front of a studio audience. Aly has the benefit of having anyone he wants at his sessions such is his standing amongst his contemporaries and he certainly has the cream of the crop here. Capercallie, The Boys of the Lough, Phil Cunningham, Willie Hunter, Willie Johnson, Violet Tulloch and many more.
Aly’s playing is unmistakable. Driving, impassioned, pure and unadulterated. He puts his stamp on everything he does and he’s one of the few players who can fully express the sense of a great tradition in front of large audiences. There’sa real mixed bag on this CD. Like all other great musicians whose travels have taken them around the world Aly always seems to come home with a new song or tune up his sleeve ? and why not? He introduced the great Texan waltz “Midnight on the Water” to the world and “Calliope House” has become a session standard worldwide. The singers here include Christine Collister, Queen Ida, Allan Taylor and Karen Matheson and players of the calibre of Violet Tulloch and Willie Johnson complete the bridge between the present and the past.
It’s very hard to review a work that is 15 years old now after having just listened to Aly’s most recent collaboration but I don’t think this man is capable of playing a bad note no matter what he does.
Overall the feel is one of a bunch of friends having a great time playing up a storm, your typical kitchen party. Traditional songs, country songs, jigs and reels, American Civil War tunes, parlour pipes, the whole lot thrown in.
I have only one problem and that is with the editing. The audience clapping is chopped out abruptly at the end of each piece making for an, at times, jarring listen. Whatever, the music more than makes up for it.
Exuberant, rich, steeped in tradition and eclectic, this album is a snapshot of one of the great fiddle players of recent times having a bit of fun. At the end of the day though, despite his forays into other musical genres, Aly Bain remains the quintessential Shetland fiddler and his many fans around the world are glad of it.