Friday 27 November 2015


CD Review

Best Day

If you could make a mink coat out of music then this selection from Scottish duo Mairearad Green and Anna Massie would fit the bill.

Anna Massie and Mairearad Green
Green and Massie are like a two woman orchestra and this album gives them more than ample opportunity to show of their impressive multi-instrumental skills.
This is a sumptuous collection of their talents which are both smooth and indulgent wraps, it wraps around you in way that you feel like you are surrounded by something deep and rich. The pair have worked with each other for more than 10 years and that familiarity has given them each a solid understanding of the others musical styles.
The first two tracks are instrumentals starting with The Red Poppy which is a couple of tunes and followed by Jerry & Otis, the first of several trilogies on the album.
The former opens the door to a real breath of mountain air as Green gets the head nodding and the toes tapping with this deliciously lilting tune. The latter allows the duo to switch leads with Massie keeping up the pace and chugging the Celtic tune along with her fiddle while Green provides the engine sound underneath. It moves wonderfully to a gambolling pace with Massie stopping just short of being staccato but the bowing is very precisely clipped.
Green's playing on Musical Flowers has an almost European feel to it where, with a little imagination, you can see perhaps a French courtyard filled with dancers moving in and out in a circle to the waltz timing. This time Massie adds an almost metronomic beat with her guitar but there are little gems she adds with her high register picking where she and Green seem to be playing some kind of private game.
Mairearad Green
What follows is one of the real gems of this album.
She Loves Me (When I try) shows not just what a gorgeous feminine voice Massie has but how wonderfully it blends with Green on harmonies. This is just one of those songs which is therapeutic. Your shoulders slump, you find yourself smiling for no reason and you feel the stress draining from your body and soul as you let the song soak in.
What follows is a trilogy where Green wrote the tune Bottle Island for her uncle, this leads into Elizabeth's Plymsolls from Mike Vass and Best Day of My Life from Aiden O'Rourke.
The sound of her bellows are fused in with Massie's guitar and then with a sprinkling of the gems from the tenor banjo. There was an inevitability of the drones turning up on this album and Green doesn't disappoint, again with another trilogy starting with Captain Campbell of Drum of Voisk, then Peter Bailie and finally Fasgadhdail. Bagpipe music seems to be enjoying something of a renaissance outside of Scotland and this, whether due to her playing or the production, is one of the more subtle offerings where the harsh wailing of the pipes seems to be subdued.
The second of the songs comes next with Always Will and Massie's voice takes on a stronger, slightly more definite tone for this ballad with Green, this time, adding the backing with a gentle squeezing of the bellows which never compete with Massie's smooth singing.
Then it's on to another trilogy, The Botanist which includes The New York Jig, Liam Cairns and A Lovely Bottle of Botanist which not doubt you can figure out is inspired by alcohol.
The set is a lovely, light collection the blending of the guitar, banjo and bellows working perfectly together to produce a traditional sounding tune which definitely feels now. What you get to start with in The Banjo Set is ultra traditional music with The Pretty Girls which gives way to a more contemporary and what seems like a slightly confused sound in Peter&Jaclyn's Wedding. The strumming banjo and the flick-flak sound of Green's bellows paint a picture of community halls where locals have come to shake off their cares and woes for an hour or so and dance the night away.
The new album
Written by Green for a family wedding Julia & Simon's is a very gently almost lazy tune that could speak of the end of the day, when everything is done and you can sit back and relax either with a drink in your hand or just by admiring the vista.
Green's accordion work is almost like breathing at the listener finally relaxes and is accented by Massie's very subtle, almost reluctant guitar playing.
The album goes out with Pipe Reels, the last of the trilogies, and does exactly what it says on the tin. Starting with The Sister's Reel then MacPherson's ending with Mary's Fancy.
Green has a way of taking that hard edge off which is so characteristic of many pipe tunes, perhaps it's to allow a little more room for Massie's strumming to be heard but however it was put together it works and takes out an album which gives you the chance to enjoy two of the most talented Scottish female folk musicians around.

Best Day is available now through the duo's website and digital download sites.

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