At the Barrier

Mike Ainscoe


The Coast Road heads off on an exhilarating journey led by two insanely talented musicians.

The debut album from Boston-born fiddle player Elizabeth Davidson-Blythe and Manx multi-instrumentalist Daniel Quayle. A collection of nine tracks of traditional and contemporary music that brings together influences from the Isle of Man, Ireland, Scotland and Estonia. As a point of reference, if you’ve listened to Imar and Barrule, then Elizabeth and Daniel are on a similar page.

However, although it’s their name on the cover, they’re not without a fine backup team. They (and we) get the pleasure of hearing the contributions of Manx fiddle player Tomas Callister (Mec Lir, Ímar) and Scottish banjo extraordinaire Ciarán Ryan (Dallahan, Ciaran Ryan Band) who join them for some driving tunes, while David Kilgallon’s (Mec Lir, Neear Nesañ) lush string arrangement on For Ewen is one to listen out for.

However, Elizabeth and Daniel remain the shining stars on The Coast Road . The blitz opens with The Croft that gathers three tunes in a formula that’s repeated on all but two tracks and sees the duo make their presence felt in an irresistible flurry of fiddle against the rhythmic guitar parts. The fiddle finally takes a pause for breath allowing the Quayle guitar to ring out, before leading into Daybreak that also offers a tumbling piano part. The effect is immediate; the same thrill derived from jumping up and down in a tent in a field. Music not to sit down to in a lush arts theatre but so evocative and joyful that remaining static and stoic is simply not good form.

The calm about the Yn Tonn tune that opens The Wave allows the combination of the reflective with the bright and lively that inevitably follows. Calm before storm and all that. Tempos are relaxed on the gentle air of For Ewen, enriched by a sensitive string arrangement that conjures up widescreen images while 128 South is a similar lament with the steady guitar part held in check.

However, that’s your lot in terms of the need for a moment to take a breath. Back in at the deep end, Ciarán Ryan’s banjo on The Train (more banjo – not a bad thing – comes on the set of tunes that make up the title track) duets and duells with the fiddle in grand style. Lord Blackadder would say they were ducking and diving like two ducky divey things. The Manx / Irish / Estonian flow seamlessly in glorious union.

Many may recall the famous “Too many notes,” critique from the Austrian Emperor Joseph II to Mozart at the premiere of Dr Entfuhrung aus dem Serail alongside the famous reply “just as many as necessary.” Eizabeth & Daniel hammer home the fact that lots of notes are good and quite simply can’t get enough.

The Coast Road is simply exhausting – breathtaking may be a better word. Not so much a feast of fiddles, but a fiddle (and guitar/banjo) fest. An exhilarating journey from two bright and inspired talents.