Ryan Young – Ryan Young

Album Review | Ryan Young Music | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 3/5

Voted ‘Up and Coming Artist’ at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards in December 2016 and a finalist from BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Music Awards in both 2015 and 2016.  Ryan Young has performed on the BBC Hogmany Show and at ‘T’ in the Park to around 80,000 people, sharing the main stage with Paolo Nutini and Phil Cunningham.  Beautifully recorded across four days in the Opera Theatre at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, this album is an altogether more intimate affair.  The rich recording captures the tones of the acoustic music and the ambience of the room, especially on the fiddle and piano.  From the slow and mournful “The Back Of The Change House” with its resonant melody over a stately piano part to the fleet footed jigs and reels like “Caber Feidh/To Chase The Goats Off The Rocks”, Ryan is a masterful player with pacing and emotion is his playing whatever the tempo.  For me it is the slower material, especially “Ryan’s Despair”, a solo piece where you can hear the air around the fiddle and every ounce of emotion is there in his playing.  The stuttering bow work seems more reminiscent of Jaqueline Du Pre’s definitive recording of Elgar’ Cello Concerto than Folk Club dance music.  The notes draw pictures and weave an atmosphere in the air.  Perfectly poised, with power and great timbre is Leo Forde’s understated guitar work.  On tracks like “The Rothiermuras Rant” they sound like one person with four arms playing two instruments.  On this finely recorded album it is a pleasure to hear James Ross’ sensitive piano playing.  On John MacColl’s Farewell he shifts from playing huge chords behind Young’s soaring fiddle, to a section where they circle round the tune together.  When you have all three players on “Willie’s Auld Trews” and “The Harris Dance” within the same set of tunes there is a power and drive in the way they carry the music forwards.  Another highlight is the shift from the slower paced “What Pain I’ve Endured Since Last Year” which starts with some monolithic piano chords and great squalls on the fiddle to gradually build in tempo across the set of tunes.  This is an amazing debut album from a virtuosic player in many ways at the start of his career, it will be interesting to see where he goes after this.