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Alistair McCulloch
Alistair McCulloch celtic fiddler

Wired Up

Fellside FECD179, 2003

Wired Up

1. Jigs

2. Strathspeys and Reels

3. Slow Air

4. Waltzes

5. Reels

6. Hornpipes

7. Slow Air

8. Reels

9. Pipe March, Strathspey and Reel

10. Airs

11. Reels

12. The Hanged Man's Reel

Alistair McCulloch - Fiddle, Whistle, Viola

Aaron Jones - Bouzouki, Guitar

Marc Duff - Whistles, Recorder, Bodhran

Morag Macaskill - Piano

Angus Lyon - Accordion, Keyboards

Lyndsay McCulloch - Cello

Duncan Lyall - Double Bass

Recorded by Paul Adams and Bob Hallard

Produced by Paul Adams and Alistair McCulloch


Here's what the reviewers had to say about 'Wired Up':


As the mountain of fiddle CDs rises even higher, this one can climb straight to the summit ridge. Ayrshire-based McCulloch is no stranger to high altitude - he won the Scottish National Fiddle Championship three times and was a soloist with the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra - and his playing sits happily here with ex-Capercaillie Marc Duff's whistles, Craobh Rua bouzouki ace Aaron Jones, the accordion of Angus Lyon. His own compositions mix with some great tunes from the tradition to make an album that is as at home on a student's walkman as on grandad's gramophone.

Scotsman


Wired Up - does this mean that the man's gone electric? Not at all - this is the second solo album from Alistair, who has a varied and impressive musical pedigree. A three times winner of the Scottish National Fiddle Championship, he played with the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra as principal soloist. He was in Canterach for a while, and also leads the well-known ceilidh band Coila.

With backing from Aaron Jones, bouzouki and guitar; Marc Duff, whistles, recorder and bodhran; Morag Macaskill, piano; Angus Lyon, accordion and keyboards; Lyndsay McCulloch, cello, and Duncan Lyall, double bass, Alistair has another opportunity to feature as a solo artist. Not surprisingly, given his background, the quality of his playing is first class. He has the discipline to approach a variety of music in an equally assured manner, bringing a personal style which is relaxed without being over casual, and precise without being over technical.

The music is a great blend of jigs, reels, waltzes and airs with sources ranging from the classics, the tradition, modern composers, and, naturally from Alistair's own pen. Alistair also co-produced the CD with Paul Adams, and an excellent job has been made of it, with a clarity of tone throughout that allows the different backing instruments to be properly heard, without compromising the lead fiddle (or viola or whistle, both of which Alistair features on one track each. Another fine performance from this skilful and talented player.

Living Tradition


I first heard Alistair McCulloch as a young lad at Ayr when he won the Junior Fiddle Section that day with a style and panache that has gathered momentum through his years as a soloist with the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra and his winning of the senior championships in 1990, 1991 and 1993. His latest CD demonstrates his wonderful control of all the styles he has been tackling lately but still with the main core of Scottish fiddle music as his outstanding forte. Another string to his bow (so to speak) on display here is a selection of his own compositions which in guid Ayrshire parlance are 'no bad at a'!. A very pleasant recording to enjoy, with a fine variety of interchanging tracks and good accompaniments.

Scottish Memories


Alistair McCulloch has been Scottish National Fiddle Champion on three occasions and will need little introduction to many. Wired Up is his second 'solo' CD although he is also a member of Celtic bands Coila and Canterach. He delivers a wide selection of jigs, hornpipes, reels and strathspeys from diverse sources including classic Scots bagpipe tunes, Irish sessions, Cape Breton and French Canadian tunes, and includes a few of his own for good measure. Although the broad emphasis is on the Scottish traditional side it's inevitable, given the range of sources, that the tracks are peppered with other flavours. It's this diversity that is one of the joys of this album, not to mention Alistair's own virtuoso performance. He has his own distinctively bright style of playing with some subtle and well placed ornamentation on even the most intricate of tunes. I particularly enjoyed the slow and atmospheric playing on' Sarah's Song' while the last track, 'The Hanged Man's Reel', is a stunning solo piece in which, it seems, Alistair is able to conjure up an entire orchestra on his fiddle. He is joined on most of the tracks by different combinations of accomplished musicians including Morag Macaskill on piano, ex-Capercaillie Marc Duff on whistles, Aaron Jones on bouzouki, and accordionist Angus Lyon amongst others, but there's never any doubt who's really pulling the wires!

Fiddle On


Alistair McCulloch, three times national Fiddle Champion, was for eight years soloist with the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, as well as a member of Canterach: now he leads the Ayrshire-based Coila.

On Wired Up he shows the sort of repertoire he can tackle, giving us the whole gamut of elegantly-executed Scottish-idiom fiddle, with tunes by himself, Ivan Drever, Gordon Duncan, Niel Gow, Scott Skinner, Tom Anderson, Angus Fitchet, Phil Cunningham, Charlie McKerron, and the ever industrious trad.

Alistair is beautifully supported by Morag Macaskill on piano, Aaron Jones on bouzouki and guitar, fellow Canterach member Angus Lyon (six times accordion champion), Marc Duff on whistles, recorder and bodhran, Lyndsay McCulloch on cello, and Duncan Lyall on double bass, in a second collection that showcases a master of his instrument taking its capabilities to the edge of the envelope.

Scots Magazine


Alistair's fiddling spans a broad swathe of the traditional territories - classic bagpipe sets, Shetland airs, French Canadian and North American tunes, as well as the many Scottish styles. His fiddling is taut and bright, with his own unique sound point evident in each piece. From good-going reels, through march, strathspey and reel, to slow air and hornpipe, Alistair is well at home in the style. He also plays whistle and viola, and has included some of his own compositions on the CD; his Kevoc Cottages is a particularly atmospheric piece, with a very laid-back piano accompaniment. Some solo pieces, some with an assortment of friends on piano, bouzouki, guitar, cello, double bass, accordion, keyboards, whistles, recorder and bodhran.

Music in Scotland.com


Ayrshire born Alistair McCulloch has been Scottish national fiddle champion 3 times and has appeared on about 30 commercial recordings (as I am informed by his website) and this is his second solo CD. On 'Wired Up' Alistair has the benefit of a 6 piece band ranging from whistle through accordion to piano, cello and double bass and the tune sets cover the whole spectrum of Scottish fiddle music from pipe marches, strathspeys and reels to airs, jigs and waltzes (there are no songs) and the sources of the tunes range from trad to Aly Bain, Phil Cunningham and Tom Anderson, therefore as well as being an excellent CD in its own right 'Wired Up' is an excellent introduction to Scottish fiddle music old and new.

The playing is precise and the backing always appropriate and of the tracks that stand out the reel set of Reel Beatrice, Andy Broon's Reel and Catharsis is a blinding display of traditional fiddling and it is great to hear a well played version of Scott Skinner's reel The Hurricane followed by Alistair's own air with Morag Macaskill on piano which is quite simply lovely. Alistair has not got the most distinctive personal style (unlike for example Aly Bain or Dave Swarbrick) but this is a highly accomplished tour through Scottish Fiddle music.

Shreds and Patches


This is the second major release from Ayrshire fiddler Alistair McCulloch, on the Fellside label and he is joined by fellow musicians Aaron Jones (bouzouki, guitar), Marc Duff (whistles, recorder, bodhran), Morag Macaskill (piano), Angus Lyon (accordion, keyboards), Lyndsay McCulloch (cello) and Duncan Lyall (double bass).

There are twelve tracks on the CD, from strict Scottish strathspey and reel sets, to some lovely slow air and waltz sets, all hauntingly played by Alistair with some first class accompaniment from Morag and also Lyndsay on cello - it's great to see the cello coming back into Scottish music in the last couple of years.

Alistair is also a competent composer with a few of his own tunes on this recording, like the beautiful slow air Hazelwood. There are some of the tracks in the more "folky" idiom (meaning the introduction of the bouzouki, guitar, whistles etc) with up beat tempos in the jigs, reels and hornpipes, which breaks up the CD from the more traditional fiddle style. All tracks are tastefully arranged and the music is jumping, which are the main ingredients for a great all round recording like this one. (Sounds like I am baking a cake) Alistair has recently brought out a book of his own compositions, which I will review in next month's magazine.

Box and Fiddle


Alistair's impressive CV includes winning the Scottish National Fiddle Championship in three not-quite-successive years in the early 90's, and a stint as a member of "supergroup" Canterach; for the past ten years he's led the Ayrshire-based band Coila. Alistair's earlier solo album for Fellside, Highly Strung, was one of those exceedingly accomplished offerings that just demanded an immediate encore, yet only now has Wired Up finally hit the racks. Do I hear complaints from puzzled Marx Brothers fans here? For it isn't quite a natural follow up, because although it certainly continues the trend of showcasing Alistair's considerable skills as an instrumentalist, the range of its repertoire is far narrower, concentrating this time round much more on a mixture of Scottish material and Alistair's own compositions. These blend very naturally and instinctively, and make for a beautifully paced listening experience. Perhaps Alistair's special strength as a musician lies in combining an easy virtuosity with a true gift for bringing out the melody lines - you might feel that nowhere is this more apparent than in the slow airs like Sarah's Song (composed by Phil Cunningham) and Alistair's own Hazelwood, the former especially displaying a supreme degree of almost classical restraint and poise, but I hear it even more in the sprightliness with which Alistair commands the various sets of faster tunes. His purely solo rendition of the Hanged Man's Reel at the end of the CD is striking for its control and musicality (where so many performers lose grip in trying to rush and impress). There's no lack of drive in the rest of the tracks either; these feature, variously, Alistair backed expertly by pianist Morag Macaskill (his accompanist at championships), fellow-Canterach member Angus Lyon on accordion and keyboards, erstwhile Capercaillie colleague Marc Duff on whistles and veteran of many line-ups Aaron Jones on bouzouki and guitar, among others. The set of reels forming track 5 in particular storms along like nobody's business, culminating in a whirlwind version of Amy Wood's modern classic Catharsis that's only marred by the decision to fade! This fine selection should appeal equally to fiddle fanciers and those who just love good tunes well played and simply but effectively arranged.

Net Rhythms.com


Alistair is a Scottish fiddler with an impressive background. This, his second CD consists of 12 tracks of jigs, slow airs, waltzes, strathspeys and reels, both traditional and recently composed. The accompaniment, bouzouki, guitar or piano is light and supportive with the fiddle well out front. This is a pleasant selection of tunes, but for me the final track 'The Hanged Man's Reel', with all the musicians present has to be my favourite.

Folk London


Fiddler Alistair McCulloch lives just outside Ayr and has a musical provenance going back more than a decade. He won the Scottish National Fiddle Championship in 1990, 1991 and 1993, was principal soloist with the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra for eight years, was a member of folk band Canterach, and has led the Ayrshire-based ceilidh band Coila for ten years. His first album Highly Strung, ranged widely, but Wired Up narrows its field, concentrating more on Scottish tunes and own compositions in Scottish style.

Nevertheless the album is still characterised by variety, both in tune type and accompaniment. The taut, sweet fiddle ranges through airs, strathspeys, jigs, reels, waltzes, marches and hornpipes, variously accompanied by whistle, cello, recorder, viola and accordion, and supported by vamping keyboard, strumming guitar or bouzouki, thumping bass and hammering bodhran. The result is a very professional, straightforward album that doesn't need to pretend to be anything more than it is. Incidentally, Alistair's own compositions include a reel dedicated to the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, where he attended a World Snooker Championship once, courtesy of his wife.

Stirrings


From the first jig to the last challenging 'Hanged Man's Reel' this CD is a delight, full of interesting tracks, new and traditional, demonstrating Alistair McCulloch's skill as a performer. It might be just a frame of mind but I particularly enjoyed the slow airs written by Alistair. 'The Small Isles' and 'Hazelwood'. The latter is a beautiful tune with a memorable melody that stayed in my head for hours, and is played with a gorgeous cello accompaniment from Lyndsay McCulloch. Don't get me wrong though, there is plenty of foot-tapping stuff here - three reels include a good rendering of Aly Bain's 'Andy Broon's Reel' that will have you birlin round the room.

Shire Folk

 

 

text and images © alistair mcculloch leader of one of the top Scottish ceilidh bands