Alastair Savage

When Barley Reaches Shore


Fiddler Alastair Savage continues his celebration of the great names in Scottish fiddle music with an album that includes his own impressionistic compositions alongside classics by Niel Gow, James Scott Skinner and William Marshall.

Accompanied here and there by Euan Drysdale on piano and guitar and Iain Crawford on double bass, Savage is all about capturing the music in the moment. It’s a spontaneous approach that, especially when Crawford plays with a bow, gives a flavour of how Gow might have sounded, with stormy energy fuelling The Devil and the Dirk, on a gig with his dance band of the time.

Savage’s own The Soldier’s Prayer is a tour de force of solo fiddling, conveying both sorrow and celebration and culminating in a melody so tender and human that it could almost be someone whistling.

Elsewhere, to Crawford’s bass murmurings, Savage gives Scott Skinner’s great air Hector the Hero the sweetest of readings and puts a terrifically rugged bounce into Gow’s strathspey in honour of Highland Whisky. He returns to Scott Skinner for the closing track, with Drysdale on carefully spare piano, investing The Music O’ Spey with a near-pictorial sense of place.

Rob Adams