Duncan Wood & Guests – Swarbtricks SWB121117

Dave Swarbrick is Britain’s most celebrated folk fiddler.  It’s no exaggeration to say that he has influenced and inspired generations of fiddle players.  Over many years Dave, ‘Swarb’, has written a significant number of songs and tunes but his talent as a composer has to some extent been overshadowed by his status as a player.  His latest writing venture would be a significant achievement for most musicians over a lifetime, but to have come up with such a quantity and quality of tunes over such a relatively short period is simply astounding.

The idea for this latest bout of creative inspiration from Swarb came after he paid a visit to Edinburgh to do a gig with Cathal McConnell and Duncan Wood at the Edinburgh Folk Club.  Swarb and Duncan shared a common interest in antiques and during the run up to the gig they travelled round the north of Scotland looking for antiques and old instruments.  Dave had already written a Scots style jig which he named Duncan The Dealer and during this northern sojourn he seemed inspired to write more tunes in the Scottish idiom.  On his return to Coventry he sent a few more tunes to Duncan over the Net and soon after the idea of an album devoted to his most recent compositions emerged.  In the words of Duncan: “After that there was no stopping him. One, two or sometimes three tunes a day were dispatched to me over a period of a month.  I began to wonder how long some of these masterpieces had lain dormant in Swarb’s fertile subconscious.  What struck me was the remarkable consistency of the tunes in terms of their quality and variety from imaginative strathspeys, reels and jigs to elegant waltzes, minuets and gavottes in sometimes long forgotten time signatures.”

This made the prospect of the project all the more challenging and exciting for Duncan.  “Although I had been greatly inspired by Swarb’s playing in the past, I did not set out to try to recreate it in this instance.  That would have been impossible.  The tunes were handed over to me in a gesture of trust and good will, with the tacit understanding that I should feel completely free to play and interpret them as I pleased.”  Duncan decided to interpret the tunes in a group setting.  He took on the task of playing fiddle and mandolin and enlisted veteran Boys of the Lough front man Cathal McConnell on flute and whistle and Martin McDonald from the Isle of Lewis on guitar.  In total there are thirty seven original compositions with an overwhelmingly Scottish feel but in a variety of traditional music styles from England, Scotland and Ireland.  The sound at times is reminiscent of early recording of Boys of the Lough.

The sleeve artwork was produced in a style similar to Kerrs Caledonian Collection, a tune book which would have had pride of place in Swarb’s music library, and probably would even be found inside his fiddle case over the years.  The whole project is a remarkable tribute to a wonderful musician – and – we understand that there is more to come!