The naked fiddlers were out in force at Fiddle 2012 on Saturday. Not the kind who wear no clothes, just the ones who eschew conventional forms of accompaniment. After a fine opening set from Frank Rochford, the young Campbeltown fiddler whose style carries on the West Highland tradition for steady-paced, expressive marches and strathspeys and who did favour piano accompaniment, Liz Carroll and Rant illustrated how one fiddle or four can be all the instrumental power you need. Chicago-born Carroll has appeared in these parts in duos before, most notably with the brilliant guitarist John Doyle, but her playing here, with just her tapping feet for company, produced a spellbinding set that had as many contours as a relief map of her native America and all the character of the Irish tradition she grew up with.
Despite being constrained by the festival's tight schedule, Carroll fitted in examples of most tune styles, from slow airs – including a superb Long Night On The Misty Moor – to reels taken at a pace not designed for the fainthearted but still packing immense detail in her sliding, string-ringing adornments and variations. Rant – the Highland-Shetland assembly of fiddlers Sarah-Jane Summers, Lauren MacColl and Bethany and Jenna Reid – were making just their second public appearance but already have a strong group identity through arrangements that weave subtle, supportive voicings alongside often very gentle melodic developments, although there's plenty of vigour, too, in their dance tunes.
The overall effect was hypnotic with the harmonised ending to one particular pair of Shetland reels offering a harbinger, surely, of more great music still to come.