I am leery about this type of music for one reason, and that is my lack of knowledge of the intricacies that go on in traditional fiddle music. I enjoy it, certainly, but I don’t feel I am able to make judgments as to whether it is “good” in a professional respect. Still, I have to admit that this album is fun to listen to.
Bonnie Rideout, along with all the other musicians on the Maggie’s Music label, has devoted herself to Celtic musical stylings in an attempt to re-create in a contemporary atmosphere that which was lost however many hundreds of years ago. All of her albums, Scottish Fire included, have blended a mix of tracks, some original, and some traditional. Most of her original tracks are dedications to older songs, though, making them another part of her emulatory style.
Actually, this album is much more wistful and distant then her earlier ones. Often, Rideout takes traditional pieces and does her own interpretation of them; this is what she does for “Lude’s Lament,” one of the most ethereal songs on this album. The same is true for “What the Devil Ails You!/Loch Ness,” two pieces that were originally considered an air and a strathspey, respectively. Rideout plays them as a waltz and a slow reel, thus contributing further to the slow, sleepy magnanimity that prevails in her attempts to both entertain and explain a country that can be so readily identified through its music.
One major thing I noted in Scottish Fire is the presence of the Uilleann pipes, a bagpipe-sounding instrument (which I have never seen), but the decided lack of one Eric Rigler, her previous Uilleann musician. Rigler used to be a very prominent musician on the Maggie’s Music label, and performed with all of the artists on this label. Actually, if you watch Braveheart you’ll notice his name as one of the musicians. He actually has a rather large part; just about every time you think you’re hearing bagpipes, it’s really Eric on the Uilleann pipes. Jerry O’Sullivan is Rideout’s current player of this instrument, and he’s respectable enough.
Go to www.maggiesmusic.com for a tour of all the musicians on the Maggie’s Music label. They’re all very talented individuals working in an independent atmosphere for the recognition of Celtic music.