Jenna Reid is enthusing about having an ally from home by her side as she prepares to launch her latest album, Working Hands, at Celtic Connections this weekend.

Featuring music the Shetland-born fiddler composed specially for the leading and fearlessly adventurous string ensemble, Mr McFall’s Chamber, Working Hands represents a significant step forward for Reid in career that has produced many notable highs since she began playing in a band, Filska, with her sister, Bethany when they were still in their mid-teens.

Writing for Mr McFall’s Chamber, whose repertoire extends from chamber pieces to adaptations of music by Frank Zappa and Weather Report, says Reid, was both inspiring and slightly daunting but any nerves that might have arisen in the recording process were assuaged by the presence, on piano, of fellow Shetlander Harris Playfair.

“Harris and I grew up in the same small village, Quarff – he lived just round the corner from us – and I’d see him at sessions back home but we never really got to know each other until after I’d moved to Glasgow to study,” she says.

Reid was in her final year on the then Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama’s Scottish music course when she decided to enter the BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year competition. She reached the final and although she didn’t win – Gaelic singer James Graham became the first male winner that year, 2004 – she had the best consolation prize she could have imagined. Her accompanist turned out to be Harris Playfair.

Celtic Connections: 10 shows not to miss

“The way things worked – and I think it’s still the same – is that Simon Thoumire, who initiated the competition and has come up with all sorts of schemes to promote traditional music, selected an in-house group of musicians to rehearse with and accompany all the finalists,” she says. “So I turned up and was introduced to the pianist, and it was Harris. He had become a music teacher and was living in the Borders but the minute we started to play the first set of tunes, it was like we’d been playing together for years. He just seemed to know exactly where I needed him to be on the keyboard at any given moment.”

Playfair had been doing great work in the Borders, where he still lives. His big band, Junction Pool, which comprised pupils and former pupils from Kelso High School (he’s since moved to Berwickshire High in Duns), received rave reviews in the national press for an album it released in the mid-noughties and it seemed that he was an inspiring figure to everyone who came into contact with him.

After hearing the musical rapport between Reid and Playfair in rehearsals and on the night of the ‘Young Trad’ final, Simon Thoumire suggested that the fiddler should make the album she would have been entitled to make as part of the prize, had she won the competition. Albums by young traditional musicians weren’t quite appearing with the blizzard-like regularity that would become the case not long afterwards. So Reid accepted and went into Castlesound Studios in Pencaitland (where she also recorded Working Hands) with a group of musicians including Playfair and guitarist Kevin Mackenzie. The resulting album, With Silver and All, was followed by two more for Thoumire’s Footstompin’ label and a further, live recording – from Shetland’s new Mareel venue – in 2014 that captured Reid and Playfair’s knife-edge understanding particularly well.

“The Live in Shetland album, which had duets between myself and Bethany and with Kevin Mackenzie too, was a great example of what Harris brings to our partnership,” says Reid. “We don’t actually play together all that often, because he has his teaching commitments and I’m away with the fiddle quartet Rant and Blazin’ Fiddles quite a lot, but when we do get the chance to play, we pick up where we left off every time, even if there’s been a year or maybe longer between meetings. It’s fantastically reassuring to see him sitting at the piano, knowing that he’ll immediately know the appropriate chord or fall in with whatever melody I want to play.”

Working Hands has its roots in a short series of lessons that Reid took with Robert McFall back in 2012. Looking to expand her arranging knowledge and develop further her already impressive ability in playing slow airs, she sought advice from McFall, who encouraged her to think about writing for his group.

“I’d go to him with a two-violins idea and ask him to pick apart what I’d written, so that I could get further into the mechanics of arranging,” she says. “I also loved his violin playing because in a way it reminded me of my teacher back in Shetland, Willie Hunter, who died in 1995 but who studied with an Italian violinist, Geoffrey di Mercado. Willie always said that the classical influence was an important element in the way he expressed himself on slow airs and I think Robert helped me with that.”

Celtic Connections: 10 shows not to miss

It was Reid’s husband, percussionist Iain Sandilands, whose presence on a Mr McFall’s Chamber album persuaded her to follow up McFall’s suggestion that she compose something for the group.

“Iain took away the fear factor,” she says. “There was also the fact that at the point I started working on the music I was expecting my second child. That was quite a spur because I realised that I wouldn’t have the time to work on music again for quite a while and it turned out that there was about eighteen months between the recording and the album’s release.”

Celtic Connections: 10 shows not to miss

Writing for a chamber quartet, she says, has similarities to writing for Rant, the Herald Angel award-winning fiddle quartet who have a third album and tour due later in the year.

“The thing about Rant is that we’re all old pals – that’s how we got together in the first place – and we tend to work up arrangements together from basic ideas,” says Reid. “With the McFalls, they’ll read anything you put in front of them but I was very aware that the parts I wrote had to be exactly right. At the same time, they’re great people and they make your music sound as good as it can possibly sound, so I really enjoyed writing specifically for the four of them. Su-a [Lee] on cello, for example, is a marvellously expressive player and I was really, really lifted by hearing her play the song I wrote for her.”

As with many traditional musicians, Celtic Connections is a busy time for Reid. As well as launching Working Hands (she, Playfair and McFall’s Chamber take the music on tour in April), she is taking part in 1990s folk whirlwind Deaf Shepherd’s 25th anniversary concert (on January 19) and will be with Blazin’ Fiddles as they reprise their 20th anniversary show with singer Karen Matheson (January 31).

“I’m really lucky to get to play with both of these bands, and Karen of course, because they were quite well established when they asked me to join them,” she says. “I still get a buzz when I turn up to play with people whose albums I listened to a lot – and when it turns out that they’ve listened to my music too, that’s a great feeling.”

Jenna Reid & Harris Playfair and Mr McFall’s Chamber play Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Sunday, January 20.