Paul Anderson – Beauties of the North

Album Review | Fingal Records | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5

If for you the fiddle is a lively dance Folk instrument played at speed to get feet moving then prepare to be confounded and compelled by Paul Anderson’s Beauties of the North. Recorded over thirteen years in a range of acoustically rich spaces, this is a collection of slow laments and airs from Scotland’s tradition. Not, Paul is quick to point out, a definitive collection of the finest, but some of the ones he enjoys playing. It takes a brave musician to play the fiddle solo, with every nuance out in the open and master musician that Paul is, he rises perfectly on the occasion. The long resonant notes on tunes like “Lament For Sir Harry Niven Lumsden of Auchendoir” or “Fyvie Castle” evoke a sense of space and distance, perfectly fitting the Beauties of the title. There is a savage beauty that describes the light and dark spanning valleys and peaks. Nature’s Celtic chiaroscuro capped with smoky clouds. A few tracks feature George Donald’s falling water drops Steinway piano, or Tony McManus’ beautiful guitar while Paul soars over the top. This is soundtrack music, romantically descriptive and expansive notes summon moods and pictures as surely as Ralph Vaughan Willam’s ascending lark violin motif from classical music, or Sarah-Jane Summers’ Scottish Nordic fiddle playing. Tracks like the romantic “Tap O Noth” are stirring like tentative steps on a Highland path rather than the frenetic pulsing of folk dance this is cerebrally warming beautiful music. With such a long gestation and recording time, change is inevitable and the passing is noted in the sleeve text of pianist George Donald and Alan Spencer instrumental in the recording of this album. Final word is Paul’s “this is without a doubt the finest recording of my own playing I’ve heard and comes closest to capturing what I sound like live.