Top of the World: Duncan Chisholm – Affric

Posted on January 27th, 2013 in Recent posts, Reviews by .

Words by Tim Cumming

Final part of Caledonian concept-album trilogy

Chisholm was born and raised in Inverness, in the Scottish Highlands.  He learned under the late, great fiddler player, composer and instrument maker Donald Riddell, is a regular player with Julie Fowlis and has his own band, Wolfstone. Affric is the third and final part of his epic Strathglass Trilogy, six years in the making, following the previous volumes Farrar and Canaich.

Affric is Duncan’s musical homage to the ancient Chisholm clan lands north-west of Loch Ness. Glen Affric is home to ancient Caledonian pine woods, lochs, moorlands and mountains, and it’s easy to see them all moving through the mind’s eye as the 11 beautifully conceived instrumental tracks take us through a suite that begins with a traditional air, the kind of tune that Chisholm’s pure tone and expressive feel raises to the sublime. Self-penned tunes mix with pieces by Phil Cunningham, Rory Campbell and others, and there’s an excerpt from poet Neil Munro’s ‘To Exiles’ read by piper Allan MacDonald. Other guests include Patsy Reid on fiddle and viola, Tony Byrne and Ross Hamilton on guitars – driving the evocative, beautiful ‘The Flooded Meadow’ – plus accordion, uilleann pipes and Phil Cunningham’s piano. There’s a lot of musical variation throughout, with contrasting textures, tones and atmospheres, whether it be the guitar-driven otherworldliness of ‘The Erchless Scout’, the lyrical warmth of ‘The House in Rose Valley’ or the unadorned beauty and epic landscape of ‘Unknown Air’. Beautifully recorded and presented, Affric represents some of the finest instrumental music from Scotland ’s new generation of players.

TRACK TO TRY: The Flooded Meadow

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