I had never heard of Elizabeth Davidson-Blythe before and no wonder: she is a young American fiddler whose first album, The Coast Road, a collaboration with guitarist Daniel Quayle, was only recently released.
But I will be very much surprised if I will not hear of her much more in the future, since The Coast Road is, to put it simply, quite wonderful. I know I am prone to use hyperbole when I like something but in this instance I do it deliberately.
Not only do I wish to make a point that this is indeed only her first release, but that the album is full of music so positive and so uplifting, not to mention expertly played, that I cannot but call it wonderful.
The tunes are mostly original, with a couple of borrowed ones and one traditional. Most are uptempo, with just a few calmer moments. They may not be terribly original or cast any new light on Scottish-based fiddling – but they are strong, each and everyone of them, and they all come with a spark that will light up the room you are in.
I am not a musicologist so when I say that sometimes American trad musicians bring that little extra energy to Celtic music, it is my hunch and subjective feeling alone. But in this very case I do feel strongly that this album is a most happy marriage of Scottish traditional roots and American vibrancy.
Elizabeth’s playing is confident and lively and just energizing. I love the ever so slightly rough and even dark-toned edge there is to her fiddle sound; even when belting out a happy tune it’s robust and rounded. As most of the tunes are written or co-written by her, she owns the music and lets it sing naturally and forcefully but without using force – a Zen ideal realized in Celtic music once again.
An important element on the album is the excellent guitar playing by Manxman Daniel Quayle who acts as a one-man rhythm section and also harmonic element with his really tight but also rich playing. There are a couple of tunes where the rhythmic patterns of the guitar and the fiddle intersect very interestingly and bring a nice new element to the proceedings.
And as the brilliant Tómas Callister (Ímar, Mec Lir) and Ciaran Ryan (Dallahan) appear as guests on a few tracks, there you have an album that will… I dunno, brighten your dark winter days and nights? Bring hope to the world?
Something good anyway, and I can tell you it sounded mighty fine and empowering when I listened to it walking in our nearby forest, now in full Finnish winter mode, the woods dressed in snow. The music was like the crackle of a fireplace against the all white landscape, and suddenly I wasn’t cold at all. Good medicine, say I.
Elizabeth Davidson-Blythe – you remember that name, folks. With a opener like this, I’m dying to hear what the next chapter will bring…