Chrissy Crowley,
Last Night's Fun
(independent, 2013)

Rachel Davis,
(independent, 2013)

Two young Canadian women have been dominating my life for the past few months.

No, don't worry, and don't hurry off to inform my wife. It's a purely auditory affair.

In what is surely an embarrassment of riches, I received new CDs in a relatively short timespan from two of the most talented, up-and-coming young fiddlers the current Atlantic Canada scene has to offer: Chrissy Crowley and Rachel Davis.

I had Chrissy's new disc, Last Night's Fun, in my car stereo for weeks. It seemed like nothing could dislodge it, and I despaired of ever reviewing another new album. Then Rachel's new album, Turns, arrived in the mail, and I had a new obsession. Again, I listened for weeks, everywhere I drove (and I drive a lot).

Then I switched back to Chrissy.

And then I switched back to Rachel.

This pattern has gone on for a while, and it shows few signs of stopping any time soon. I can't really say I mind, though -- these two fiddlers from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, are riding the crest of a wave of new talent.

Cape Breton is an island that, musically speaking, just keeps on giving. Its rich musical tradition crosses generations, and there are always new faces coming along to continue the momentum and freshen the mix. I was fortunate enough to catch both Rachel and Chrissy in live performances when they were just starting to make their names heard, and each has grown into a formidable talent. It seems almost unfair to lump them together here, but it's also hard to separate them -- not only is each a phenomenal solo performer, but they've also joined forces in various capacities -- most excitingly, I think, in the still-unrecorded band Coig, which also features equally gifted musicians Colin Grant, Darren McMullen and Jason Roach.

But even in their solo careers, the careers of these two compadres are entwined. Rachel performs on Chrissy's new CD, and fellow Coig members make appearances on both.

That doesn't mean these talented fiddlers are interchangeable, though. While both can drive a traditional medley with the best of them, they have their differences. Chrissy, for instance, explores some outside influences in her arrangements, such as jazz and world music. Rachel, on the other hand, puts her lovely singing voice to work on several tracks, and on two occasions she swaps her violin for a viola.

Both fiddlers are incredibly, exquisitely talented. I was lucky to know them when -- and I'm lucky to hear them now. Each is a force to be reckoned with -- and I'm sorry, but if you're a musician and you've been hoping I'd review your CD, it's their fault I haven't had time to listen yet.

It may be some time.

music review by
Tom Knapp

14 September 2013

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