The mighty Saltfishforty, comprising of Orcadians Douglas Montgomery on fiddle/viola and Brian Cromarty on guitar, mandola and vocals have steadily been wowing audiences with their infectious and feisty rhythms since the release of their debut album Goose Music way back in 2003. The boys have returned with another sparkling album, Netherbow – their third after 2005’s Orkney Twister, full of characteristically brisk reels and frisky jigs.
There has been a bit of a break between Orkney Twister and Netherbow but the boys have been busy, not only have they had additions to their own family but they have also been working hard with their other band The Chair and their 2007 release Huinka (The Chair will also be playing at the Falkland Big Tent Festival later this month for anyone heading to Fife).
The title track, ‘Netherbow’, perfectly sets the pace for this slightly less rowdy and more mellow album from Douglas and Brian which highlights the boys’ interest in the traditional fiddle music of their native isles. The strathspey, by late Rousay fiddler Jimmy Craigie (whose work is rightly going through a well-deserved appreciation following the 2010 Orkney Folk Festival) is a fine introduction to a confident album which masterfully mixes traditional Orkney tunes, such as ‘The Bride’s Lament’ and ‘The Holm Band Tune’, with more modern compositions.
Saltfishforty are well adept at combining old and new and Netherbow includes a few examples; Kirkwall’s David Horne’s poem “The Cock o’Byam” is interpreted into a snappy Seth Lakeman-esque narrative of dark deeds and murder. The mournful ‘A ring on her hand’ is a similarly gutsy interpretation, inspired by George Mackay Brown’s “The Sea-King’s Daughter” and a traditional Orkney melody from the Balfour Collection.
The boys are no slouches themselves when it comes to composing as the bustling ‘The Glassel Jig/Stoot’s Jig/Reel for Karen’ testifies. Douglas shows his mettle on ‘Danielle and Keith’ and the sublimely brooding ‘Svecia’ (inspired by an eighteenth century ship wreck off North Ronaldsay which poignantly provided salvage material for Douglas’s viola used on the track) whilst Brian equally demonstrates his talent as a songwriter on ‘Yellow and Blue’ and ‘A Tune for Lucy’.
Adding in a few bristling reels from Cape Breton, including the late Jerry Holland’s ‘The Normaway Inn’, Netherbow is a lively album, brimming with Douglas’s sweeping fiddle and viola and Brian’s thrusting guitar and mandola (the boys do draft in The Chair’s Erik Laughton for occasional percussion). If you like your trad played with flair, passion and spirit then you can do no wrong with these two Orcadians.
Due for release on 26th July 2010