Ross Couper and Tom Oakes – Fiddle and Guitar

Album Review | Haystack Records | Review by Liam Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

There’s something deeply exciting about the music of Ross Couper and Tom Oakes.  Within the symbiosis of the duo’s playing there lies an electricity that is managed so meticulously, remaining restrained during the gentlest moments then fizzing to the surface as each tune rises towards its climax.  Fiddle & Guitar, the duo’s first full-length album, undulates with said magic thanks to Ross’s graceful elbow – a familiar one for Peatbog Faeries fans – and Tom’s impassioned strumming.  On Phil Cunningham’s Cathcart there’s something equally mechanical and organic in Tom’s guitar whilst Ross’s lithe fiddle melody weaves threadlike between the chords as the tune gives way to the infectious grooves of Vioar Skrede’s “Apo Fetlar Top”.  There’s a wealth of lively rattlers on this album, from the strutting “Pig’s Reel” to “Sam Cormier’s”, but the slower tunes are no less intoxicating.  The melancholic 92nd Year is one of the album’s highlights thanks to its exploratory guitar chords, dainty fiddle lines and a heartbreakingly gentle middle section, consisting of subtle guitar plucks and wisps of sorrowful fiddle.  A return to tranquillity for Tom’s self-penned “The Last Gasp” lends the album one of its most delicate moments in which sprightliness is exchanged for intimacy without any loss of the fervour that makes this album such a success.