Liz Doherty,
Quare Imagination
(Busy Lizzy, 2002)

Liz Doherty, thoroughly steeped in the fiddle traditions of her native Ireland and her home away from home, Cape Breton, has a fertile imagination when it comes to musical arrangements and fiddle techniques. That imagination might be a bit frustrating for the other musicians in the studio when Doherty's at work, if the liner notes to her new album are any indication, but the result is unquestionably fine.

Quare Imagination is a little more sedate than Doherty's previous album, Last Orders, but it lacks none of her trademark finesse. Doherty is a wizard when it comes to assembling exciting tune sets, and she has put together some doozies here -- with some exceptional guest musicians adding spice to the sound.

Both the tunes and the musicians come from several corners of the Celtic music world; Ireland, Scotland, England, Canada and Australia all make themselves known in some way or another.

Joining Doherty on one or more tracks are Matt Foulds (drums), Martin Green (accordion), John Joe Kelly (bodhran), Daniel Lapp (fiddle, trumpet, viola), Manus Lunny (bouzouki, guitar, bodhran, programming), Ryan MacNeil (piano), Tony McManus (guitar), Gerry O'Connor (banjo, fiddle, mandolin), Sarah Roberts (guitar) and Eilidh Shaw (fiddle). Doherty also adds a bit of foot percussion on a French-Canadian set.

The only disappointment here is the amount of restraint exhibited by Lapp. I had the grand fortune of see Doherty and Lapp work magic -- she on fiddle, he on trumpet -- during a few memorable moments at Celtic Colours 2001 in Cape Breton. When I heard he would be guesting on her next album, I anticipated the same kind of kinetic interplay between these two phenomenal musicians. Alas, Lapp hangs pretty much in the background here, adding his excellent stylings at an uncharacteristically restrained level. Perhaps on the next album.

Rest assured, I'll be there when it comes out, whatever form it appears in. Doherty doesn't have the name recognition of some Irish fiddlers, but she easily ranks among the best.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 7 September 2002