25th February 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Another top-drawer album from duo

Back To The Hills by Maggie Adamson and Brian Nicholson.

Yet again Shetland’s talented dynamic duo of Maggie Adamson and Brian Nicholson have blessed the shelves of the shops with another top-drawer CD, Back to the Hills.

The duo, who are described as “natural, diverse, gifted and exciting”, were the winners of the prestigious Danny Kyle Award at Celtic Connections in 2008. More recently, they were nominated as Up and Coming Artist of the Year at the Scots Trad Awards, which is a great achievement, even though Brian is an old pro who is internationally recognised as one of Shetland’s finest ever guitarists, described by Albert Lee as “world class”.

Maggie, who is also a member of the National Youth Orchestra, is a true rising star of the Shetland fiddle scene and has won many national competitions and titles for her incredible playing. She was also Young Fiddler of the Year in 2008.

Back to the Hills is Maggie and Brian’s third CD and is outstanding by anyone’s standards. It features 17 tracks, with a good mixture of both traditional and contemporary Shetland tunes, as well as some Scandinavian, ragtime and jazz music. The title track of the album, composed by Scott Skinner and first published in 1900, is beautifully played by Maggie and demonstrates her incredible skill and able techniques on the fiddle, clearly showing why she wins so many awards.

The opening track features a couple of cracking tunes composed by Maggie: Wir Inter Island Cruise for her granny’s intrepid ferry journey, and Doppleganger, a lively reel for Dr Mike McDonnell from Yell. This is followed by the very catchy and cheery Pottinger’s Pineapple Polka, which was composed by Ronnie Jamieson for my old pal and former member of Hom Bru, Ivor Pottinger. Another set of Scottish tunes on which Maggie ably demonstrates her technical abilities is The Shakins o’ da Pocky, Mr Michie, Miss Farquarson of Invercauld and The Hurricane.

This was a competition set which won Maggie the Senior Solo Fiddle Trophy at Musselburgh this year. Some more tranquil moments include the enigmatic theme tune Innishfree, composed by Michael Farrelly in 1949 for John Ford’s classic film A Quiet Man, the beautiful Tennessee Waltz (which sounds so good it gave me goosebumps on my goosebumps!) and the moving slow airs Fyvie Castle by Scott Skinner and Tarland Memories composed by Peter Milne.

Another beautiful air which will raise the hairs on the back of your neck is Freddie’s Tune which was attributed to my great, great, great, great, great grandfather Friedemann Stickle from Unst.

Personally, I like every track on the CD, but some favourites include the very popular ragtime tune Cottonpatch Rag written by early 1940s Grand Ole Opry performer Arthur Smith, and some contemporary Shetland tunes written by Bernard Smith from Cunningsburgh: My Best Tune So Far, Oot Be Wast Brunthamarsland Wi a Tuskar an’ a Rid Tin and Big Robbie’s Helmet.

It is also great to hear the old traditional tunes and Maggie and Brian play a great set of three reels in the old Shetland style: Cross Reel, Du’s Bin Lang Awa and Am Toght Lang Ta See De and Aandowin at da Bow.

Another favourite has to be the skillfully played jazz classic Lady Be Good. Here you can listen to Maggie playing in a style reminiscent of Stephane Grappelli, with some amazing classy guitar chords and a great solo by Brian.

Overall this is a superb production from two top-notch accomplished Shetland musicians delivering high quality music at a premium level. I’m not a person who usually finds faults in anything, but my only problem with this CD is that after 55 minutes and 31 seconds of excellent music I still wanted more!

So best you get out there, buy a copy and enjoy!

Steven Spence

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