Review Archive

‘Octave Fiddle Baritone Violin’ - Gavin Pennycook ‘a masterwork of octave-strung fiddle’

(March 06, 2014)

Returning to FolkWords is made all the more pleasurable when sitting on the top of your review Octave Fiddle gavinpennycookpile is Gavin Pennycook’s new album ‘Octave Fiddle Baritone Violin’. The pleasure lies in the fact that the entire album is given over to the wondrous sound of the octave fiddle, also known as a baritone violin – thus album title explained. Whatever name you use we’re talking about a violin or fiddle tuned an octave below conventional G-D-A-E tuning, using heavy gauge strings to create a range somewhere between viola and cello. Along the way, this approach creates a rich, opulent sound with echoes of a time lost in swirling mists and brooding hills, a time that lingers still – and perfectly presented with this album.

Moving seamlessly through the marvels of Scottish and Irish tradition, Gavin also spreads his tuneful travels wider still with musical stop-overs in Scandinavia and Wales. And just for good measure, classical aficionados can revel in a touch of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with an animated version of ‘Rondo Alla Turca’ involving fiddle and guitar, and an equally expressive element of Grieg’s ‘In The Hall of The Mountain King’. The tonal quality of this work has a physical reach, reaching out to touch your ears with tis depth and presence.

From the vigorous joy of ‘Loftus Jones’ and ‘The Heathery Cruach/Miss Shepherd/Green Grow the Rashes-O’ through the mournful ‘Fyvie Castle’ and moving ‘The Kerry Woman’s Lament’ to the sparkle of ‘The Green Hills of Tyrol/Return to Miltown’ this album must go down as a masterwork of octave-strung fiddle playing. Alongside Gavin Pennycook (octave-strung fiddles) on ‘Octave Fiddle Baritone Violin’ on selected tracks are Ewan MacPherson (guitars, Jew’s harp) and John Morran (guitar, mandola).

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Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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