Sometimes the magic happens when you least expect it. Scottish fiddle and harp duo Chris Stout and Catriona McKay ventured to undertake an Irish tour with Seamus Begley, whom they’d long admired, and what emerged from the union has proven to be a revelation both in the studio and on the road.
Following the triumph of that recent tour (where the delicacy of Begley’s voice was beautifully circumnavigated by McKay’s gloriously hip-swivelling harp rhythms and by the deep troughs of Stout’s fiddle lines), the trio have left a rich bequest. It’s a purple patch for all three that’s worthy of exploration. Take their marriage of Laybourne’s Hornpipe with the reel McFadden’s Handsome Daughter: both share a loping, improvisational quality rooted in an energy that propels the tunes onwards. Begley’s song choices are worthy of the attention afforded them in arrangement: the opener, Annan Waters, basks in the warmth of Stout and McKay’s strings, its richly Byronic lyricism thrown into sharp relief by the delicacy of Stout’s viola. Catriona McKay’s possession of the harp is without compare, bristling with vitality and rhythmic intensity. Stout and Begley’s duet on Rowin’ Foula Doon mines the emotional depths of a seafaring tradition of that Shetland Island where fishermen rowed out until they were no longer able to see the cliffs of Foula. Their vocals make cosy bedfellows. Stout and McKay have recently released a maritime-themed album of newly composed music, Seavaigers. Now, they explore similar seafaring themes, but in the company of an accordionist and singer whose reach is as wide as it is welcoming. This is music of the moment: bristling with the excitement of newly minted camaraderie and bolting towards the door for the wide open spaces it craves. And yet, there’s a finesse to the collection. mckaystoutmusic.co.uk