FolkWorld #73 11/2020
© Alex Monaghan


Alasdair Fraser

Alasdair Fraser
Artist Video Alasdair


New album of original compositions by Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas.

Perhaps the quintessential Scottish fiddler, as portrayed in the powerful music documentary The Groove Is Not Trivial, Alasdair Fraser has long been known for reinvigorating traditional music. Together with his long-time musical partner Natalie Haas, the undisputed doyenne of folk cellists and the inspiration for a whole generation of big fiddle folkies, Alasdair has reinvented the fiddle and cello music of 1800s Scotland, as enjoyed by Gow, Marshall, and many other legendary figures.

Alasdair Fraser

All that creativity and drive have now been channeled into new compositions - twenty of them, in fifteen tracks, making an hour of music on the new album SYZYGY from Fraser & Haas. Or should I say Haas & Fraser, as this collaboration is quite deliberately equal, complementary, different forces combining to create a moment of calm or chaos, a constructive opposition, like the tree and the wall which lean together but which collapse if either is removed? Who led and who followed, which is melody and which is harmony, has become irrelevant in this meeting of two monumental talents.

Alasdair has been composing for a long time, certainly since Galen's Arrival twentysomething years ago, and probably long before that. Natalie's compositions have come to the fore more recently, performed with Alasdair but also picked up by other fiddlers since this duo's 2017 album Ports of Call which included three Haas originals, among them the wonderful Pea in the F Hole. For the first time, SYZYGY shares the composing credits equally, with seven tracks from Natalie's pen covering Scandinavian, swing, Scottish, contemporary swing, a showband medley, and even a new oldtime tune. Alasdair's pieces here range from an almost classical waltz to a gypsy reel, with his trademark tearful airs and storming strathspeys, plus a few surprises.

An amazing variety of music on fiddle and cello alone: more new departures than JFK in lockdown, more emotionally charged than a presidential election, and packed with highly infectious material, SYZYGY could be the defining point of 2020 for many of us! At least there is joy at the ending.

For good reasons, this album is at first only available direct from Alasdair Fraser's website - various download packages and also physical CDs are on offer, perhaps with tune books and SYZYGY facemasks to follow! You will have to wait a while for it to be released to iTunes or Spotify, so why not show these world-class musicians your support now?

(SYZYGY: "the joining of any two entities without losing the individual characteristics of either one.")

Photo Credits: (1) Alasdair Fraser (Culburnie Music) (unknown/website).

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