Paul Anderson Scottish Fiddler

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Land of the Standing Stones Reviews

Hello Folks,

I’ve received some great reviews for my latest album “Land of the Standing Stones” which came out in October 2013.  Here’s a selection of the ones I’ve seen – there may be more which I haven’t seen but if you have seen any which aren’t on the list I’d be interested to hear about them. 

 

PAUL ANDERSON – Land Of The Standing Stones album reviews.

 Fingal Records FINCD505

 Inspired by his passion for the landscape, history and culture of his rural homeland in Aberdeenshire, famous for its standing stones, this recording presents over 50 original pieces by one of Scotland’s most celebrated composers and fiddlers.

Encompassing jigs, reels, strathspeys and marches with slow airs, ballads, laments and a pibroch, it culminates, appropriately, in Sunset Song, a suite of the main musical themes from his contribution to the Aberdeen Performing Arts’ 2008 production of Scottish author Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s 1932 novel about the landscape, idioms and people of North East Scotland.

Centred always on Paul’s fiddle, modest accompaniment from cittern, guitars, bass, keyboards and percussion adds pleasing variety, texture and atmosphere. Shona Donaldson sings on one piece and actor Kevin McKidd vocalises a heartfelt account of the clannish mayhem in the Earldom of Mar in the late 16th century.

The music draws on and conveys the genius loci, its history and characters, especially palpably and movingly on the slow airs. The exquisite control and pacing of The Beauty of Cromar before Me has a shimmery and lambent quality redolent of a genial summer’s evening and the suitably soaring sensibility of Farewell to St. Kilda is equally sublime.

Classical precision and awesome technique abound yet not at the expense of character and contemporary styling – majesty with melancholy in a tribute to the ‘real’ King Macbeth, jagged edginess for the uneasy feel of the coven at Craiglash in Glassel. This is a truly masterful exhibition of fiddle composition and playing.

Kevin T. Ward (Scotland on Sunday)

 

On Tuesday fiddler Paul Anderson spent the evening getting the citizens of Aberdeen in the mood to celebrate the arrival of 2014 in the Granite City’s Music Hall. As this release confirms, Anderson is a master of jigs, reels, marches and especially strathspeys, combining their rugged rhythms with a sublime sweetness of phrasing, and he’ll doubtless have them dancing in the aisles. What marks him out as a musician and composer, however, is his ability to channel the landscape and characters he sees into thrillingly soulful fiddle music. The airs and pibrochs he plays here are startlingly evocative of the places and, aided by the stories provided in the liner notes, the subjects that inspired them. The Beauty of Cromar Before Me is an unspeakably gorgeous hymn of praise and Blawearie, from the closing suite inspired by Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song and featuring Shona Donaldson’s lovely, authentic Scots singing, calls up all manner of harsh beauty and unforgiving toil. Marvellous.

Rob Adam (The Herald, January 1, 2014.)

 

 

Malt whisky, shortbread and tartan, Rangers and Celtic; all synonymous with Scotland. And then there’s Paul Anderson, who may not be but surely should be. One of the nation’s most respected and recognized traditional musicians, yet not yet having the notoriety of becoming a household name.

Land Of The Standing Stones, the latest addition to his canon, is another fine instrumental-based collection which showcases Anderson’s trademark fiddle at the fore, apart from a couple of songs and tunes with have the addition of some subtle complementary instruments.

It also includes contributions from Shona Donaldson (Scots singer of the year 2009), Swedish cittern genius Ale Carr, Ali Napier (from the Dougie MacLean band) and Scottish acting star Kevin McKidd (anyone remember Lucius Vorenus from the series ’Rome’?) who found time to contribute guitar and occasional vocals.

The material on the album has all been composed by Paul himself and at a whopping 70 minutes, it undoubtedly gives value for money. The music itself, though steeped in the traditional Scots fiddle genre, is also contemporary in style, particularly when he lets rip into a set of reels.

The inspiration for the music ranges from his locale and his sons (the twa nickums , or rascals, of one of the tunes) to civil wars, the rugged Scots landscape, and also sees the gorgeous Lament To Macbeth taking its own inspiration from the ’real’ King Macbeth rather than Shakespeare’s slightly more ferocious version. The ample liner notes also go some way to adding detail to the background behind the collection.

However, it’s not to say that it is a case of quantity over quality as there is so much to enjoy throughout the recording. With such a wide selection of tunes on show, it’s hard to take it all in from the first few listens, but standouts include the opening set of jigs and reels, Logie Coldstone/Brian Cruickshank’s Capers/The Twa Nickums/The Banks O’ Dee which really grab the attention and set a formidable pace.

It depends on taste of course, but the sets of jigs and reels which are dotted through the album (and just wait for the set of reels beginning with the Tarland Rant) are a foot tapper’s delight and a lively contrast with the slow airs and laments.

The short title track, written as a commission for Aberdeenshire Council (a gentle reminder that there are some local government offices who have their priorities sorted) being one of the best examples of the melancholy yet strangely uplifting and soothing powers of these mellower tunes.

An album which shows that both quantity and quality can be comfortable bedfellows and best enjoyed in front of a roaring fire, with a crystal tumbler of single malt and a plate of the finest shortbread you can muster.

Mike Ainscoe (Bright Young Folk)

 

 

Breaking the mould, not least in its Japanese banquet format (“small portions, but so many courses”), this album is fiddlers Paul Anderson homage to his native Aberdeenshire.  Almost entirely original, with 50 of Paul’s on compositions, Land of the Standing Stones is, never the less, a completely traditional recording, full of the spirit of Scottish music, with little that would be out of place in fiddle concerts of a hundred years ago. Its stark beauty is perhaps most obvious in airs such as Lament for Jean Guthrie, Farewell to St Kilda, Love in the Howe and the aptly named The Beauty of Cromar Before Me.  But the grace and lyricism or Anderson’s music persist through jigs such as Brian Cruickshank’s Capers and The Pipers Knowe, splendid waltzes and marches, and several towering sets of strathspeys and reels.

 There’s an edge to the acoustics on this recording, an echo of the windswept Cairngorms and the bleak Deeside landscape, which give the music a raw and muscular feel, evoking the rough highland climate without romanticising it.  Among many references to battles and burials, the bloodiest by far are in Anderson’s historical ballad Bonnie Henry Gordon which recounts one of the clan feuds from the 16th century and the ill-fated young lovers who were its tragic victims.  This isn’t exactly Romeo and Juliet, but not so far from West Side Story.  Another Shakespearian resonance is Farewell to The King, an air for Macbeth, King of Scotland from 1040-1057, not quite an Aberdeenshire loon but a lad from neighbouring Morayshire who spent a lot of time roaming between Inverness and Dundee.

I first listened to this CD on a long car journey from Galashiels to Bedford, long enough to run though all 29 tracks a few times, yet the tunes stayed fresh and powerful.  There isn’t a dull moment in 70 minutes, and many of the melodies are quite breath-taking.  Lament for The Gordon’s of Knock, Elsie Cromar, Nicola Auchnie of Auchterless, and several others stick in the memory and sound so naturally part of the North East fiddle tradition.   The final few tracks are even more varied, adding vocals and a piano solo from Shona Donaldson, and dramatic sound effects for the hymn to the Somme, The Harvest of Men.  Paul Anderson has released several previous albums, but none to match Land of The Standing Stones: this is his masterpiece in every sense, a monument to his music and tradition, and a recording which any fiddler would be proud of. 

Alex Monaghan (Folk World)

 

 

This latest release from Tarland’s finest, further enhances his reputation.  A masterful work from a man at the top of his craft, this release has 29 tracks deeply rooted in traditional fiddle music yet sounding fresh and vibrant with some songs in a more contemporary style too – most notably with a fine contribution from Hollywood star and Elgin loon Kevin McKidd.

There is a strong North East flavour throughout with themes from The Warlocks Stone of Craiglash, to Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song and Blawearie. 

This is Scottish Fiddle music at its finest – the whole album is wonderful and has been heavily listened to in our house with three songs being the crème de la crème – “The Beauty of Cromar Before Me” and the title track “The Land of the Standing Stones” are beautiful slow air and would bring a tear to a glass eye. 

The ballad of “Bonnie Henry Gordon” is a masterful contribution from Kevin McKidd who has a fine baritone voice and isnae too shabby on the guitar either – this one is a favourite with our children who call is “The Murder Song!” 

Verdict: highly recommended, 10/10 for the Tarland maestro. 

Steve Whyte (Dee n Do, a magazine for Royal Deeside)

 

Who better to interpret the landscapes and characters of the North East of Scotland than fiddler Paul Anderson?  The man and his music are now synonymous with the musical heritage of the North East.  His fiddle playing and his energy in promoting, supporting and developing this cultural heritage are second to none.  Now he gives us an album of self-penned tunes (and songs) whose roots are bound in the area.  Jigs, reels, slow airs, waltzes, strathspeys and marches, are all present.  Too many to mention but each set perfectly formed and performed. 

Back in 2008, Paul was musical director of the touring production of Sunset Song.  The album contains a number of the pieces that provide a perfect musical compliment to Lewis Grassic Gibbons novel.  Add to this the exquisite voice of Shona Donaldson on the beautiful “Tears for me, Father”. 

Another, somewhat unexpected voice, also appears on the ballad “Bonnie Henry Gordon”.  Taking time out from his Hollywood career, Kevin McKidd displays his singing skills in a gory 16th century tale based on the feuds between the Gordon’s and the Forbes’. 

This album goes beyond being a musical treat.  It enhances the cultural heritage of the North East. 

Ian Leith (Scottish Memories, January 2014)

 

Scotland’s North East is a separate nation within the country, and its distinctive vocal and linguistic traditions stand apart – as does the unmistakeable sound of its fiddle, here played by the top current exponent.  This CD has solo fiddle, occasionally accompanied by Swedish cittern, Scots keyboard or one of seven musicians – with Shona Donaldson on a couple of songs, and Scots actor Kevin McKidd, who successfully holds down the ballad Bonnie Henry Gordon.  This unique and strong album ends with Andersons powerful themed creations for the theatrical touring version of Grassic Gibbon’s literary masterpiece Sunset Song. 

Norman Chalmers (Scotland on Sunday, 9th March 2014)

 

Land of The Standing Stones is the latest album from fiddle virtuoso Paul Anderson and is a sort of salute to his native Aberdeenshire.  The tracks are traditional in concept but have that modern, contemporary stamp that is such a characteristic of Pauls work.  On this collection he is more than ably assisted by an impressive array of talent, from singer Shona Donaldson to Kevin McKidd (aye, the actor), cittern ace Ale Carr and Ali Napier a former member of The Dougie McLean ensemble. 

Actually I say salute to Aberdeenshire, but he venture across the water to bid a musical and emotional Farewell to St Kilda, one of several slow airs which show the extreme depth of feeling that a well-played – sorry, superbly played – fiddle can conjure up.  This man just gets better and better.

Alasdair MacLean (The Scots Magazine, March 2014)

 

A teacher of fiddle champions, Paul Anderson is a prolific composer with over 460 titles to his name.  Over 50 tunes make their way onto this CD, inspired by the people, landscape and history of the North East of Scotland.  The full gamut of folk tune types in in evidence, and the hallmark of this record is how effectively Anderson marries each style to the respective theme. 

In “The Beauty of Cromar Before Me” it’s somehow possible to imagine the beautiful landscape and appreciate how, as Anderson says, the piece almost wrote itself. “Farewell to The King” is a haunting lament to the real King Macbeth.  In amongst the evocative tunes is a murder ballad, “Bonne Henry Gordon” written by Anderson which relates in gruesome details the blood feud between the Forbes’ and Gordon families in The Earldom of Mar during the civil war of the 1570s. 

The culmination of the album is a cycle of tunes inspired by the significant realist 1930s novel, Sunset Song, by Scottish writer, Lewis Grassic Gibbon.  Poignantly the sequence ends with “The Flooers o’ the Forest”.  In a most effective musical manner, Anderson has reaped very fruitful rewards from the fertile soil around his native Aberdeenshire.

Colin Bailey (R2, Rock n’ Reel, January/February 2014)

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