Blazin' Fiddles,
Fire On!
(self-produced, 2000)

It's obvious from the start that Blazin' Fiddles is an aptly named band.

The six talented young fiddlers showcasing the Scottish styles of playing combine talents on Fire On! for an impressive display of skill. Much of their playing is in unison; the full sound of so many strings working one or two parts gives them something of a symphonic flair.

Blazin' Fiddles is Aidan O'Rourke, Allan Henderson, Andy Thorburn, Bruce MacGregor, Catriona Macdonald and Duncan Chisholm, with Iain MacFarlane and Marc Clement providing support on guitar and keyboards.

While you might expect one or two of the fiddlers to stand out, the band seems to go to great pains not to spotlight any one member over the others. Solo fiddling is rare, and you never know who it is from the liner notes. That's actually a nice touch; this isn't a band about egos, it's about strong ensemble musicianship.

Clever arrangements, as well as their obvious talent, help Blazin' Fiddles to stand out in a market flooded with fiddlers from the various diverse subsets of Celtic music. The arrangement of "Waulking Songs," adapted from Scottish work songs, is particularly good, with an opening point and counterpoint setting the tone.

The only disappointment here isn't really a flaw of the CD's. But when I saw Blazin' Fiddles perform in both concert and casual settings at the 2000 Celtic Colours music festival in Cape Breton, I was dazzled by the band's charisma and energy on stage. Fire On!, while a proficient display of their abilities, fails to capture the passion and panache I saw there. Although, to be fair, I'm not sure a CD really can.

Despite that one very questionable complaint, Fire On! is highly recommended.

[ by Tom Knapp ]