Duncan Chisholm is unquestionably one of Scotland's greatest violinists.
A founding member of the pop-rock band Wolfstone in the early '90s, since 1997 he has pursued a career under his own name, peppering these twenty-seven years with seven superb albums, each one even better than the last. His musical identity combines creativity, tenderness and a deep passion for his native Highlands. After composing a major body of work, The Strathglass Suite, comprising three albums of great beauty, Farrar, Canaich and Affric, he gave us the magnificent Sandwood in 2018, an album of haunting beauty.
Now he's back with an album that's as good as his last, if not better. The name of this little musical gem is Black Cuillin, a mountain range located in the wildest part of the Isle of Skye, on the west coast of Scotland, with a peak of 992 metres above sea level. Duncan describes his album as a dream journey through this landscape in a day and a night.
For this album he has brought together the who's who of the Scottish scene. His long-time companions Hamish Napier (keyboards) and Ross Ainslie (whistles) are on hand alongside him, including for the compositions, and Donald Shaw from Capercaillie for the track Constellation. Ross Hamilton (guitar and bass), Jarlath Henderson (uilleann pipes), Malcolm Jones, ex-Runrig (electric guitar), Patsy Reid and her spidery fiddle and Martin O'Neill (bodhrán) also feature.
Most of the tracks are original compositions by D.Chisholm, R.Ainslie and H.Napier. Other contributors include Iain MacFarlane and Phil Cunningham.
The album opens with ominous mountain sounds - Black Cuillin - that melt into piano and fiddle chords, soaring over these almost unreal landscapes, while a string section slips into this delicate flight.
The tempo changes on the second track - On the Winds of Chaos Born - which picks up speed and takes the listener on a wild ride through this grandiose landscape. The rest of the album is a succession of powerful flights of fancy and more serene moments to appreciate the majesty of the place.
All in all, a breathtaking album that draws its inspiration from the rugged beauty of the mountains of Skye, capturing its quintessence. How on earth can a musician be so talented?
Copperfish CFFCD008 – www.duncanchisholm.com