Kebister Head, CD by Bryan Gear with Violet Tulloch and Jack Robertson, £12.99.
IT SEEMS no time ago at all since Bryan Gear became our Young Fiddler of the year, with the consequence that audiences in Shetland – and much further afield – came to appreciate his outstanding talents. Actually that was all of 16 years ago, in 1992; ever since, Bryan’s fans have been hoping or expecting or in some cases actually sherging for an album of recordings.
Well, it’s here at last, the CD Kebister Head, launched last week, Bryan Gear on fiddle, Violet Tulloch on piano, Jack Robertson on bass and guitar. When you hear the tracks, you know the wait has been worth while.
Solo fiddle-playing is a different game entirely from band or group work, for the player of the melodies in a duo or trio stands alone with nowhere to hide; there’s no line-up of fiddles and boxes and pipes and suchlike. Each and every one of the vibrations that make up the sound of the fiddle and the melody of its tune is the responsibilty of the player, all the complex mechanics of intonation, tone, rhythm and so on.
Once developed, these mechanics alone aren’t sufficient; there needs to be an almost inborn feeling for the instrument and the music. Most importantly of all, these ingredients need to mature over time. In Bryan Gear’s case, this process has given us the kind of fiddle player that only comes along once or twice in a generation, a man who has arguably become Shetland’s finest exponent of the art today. There are 15 tracks, 31 tunes in all; a wide-ranging selection from many parts, nothing too up-to-the-minute it’s true, but nane the waur for that – the sort of tunes that never date.
Bryan’s playing is relaxed, the style smooth and fluent, the tone rich, the bowing impeccable, the tempo steady. This, out in front of Violet’s supremely accomplished piano and Jack’s assured bass notes, gives a performance that is as near perfect as you’ll ever hear from this kind of trio playing this kind of music. My only very slight irritation is that they’re so bloody modest about it all, and yet when you think about it, they have nothing to prove.
The recording was engineered by Stuart Hamilton and produced by Andrew Tulloch, who have set a standard for others to aim at. It’s in the shops now; hurry, buy it, for in years to come it’ll be regarded as an icon of its kind.