An infectious and inspirational showcase of traditional fiddle music

Pine Tree Flyers

The Strad Issue: June 2024

Description: An infectious and inspirational showcase of traditional fiddle music

Musicians: Pine Tree Flyers

Catalogue number: TRADCAFE RECORDS

A quartet based in Maine, US, the Pine Tree Flyers is clearly on an important mission: to highlight and establish New England fiddle music alongside its more prominent stylistic counterparts as a rich, rewarding concert music. Indeed, its debut release unapologetically sets out its musical stall, and the result is a revealing, rewarding and deeply enjoyable experience in its mix of tunes and styles, and – most evidently – in the players’ inventive, ever-changing arrangements across their quartet of fiddle, accordion, piano and guitar.

Katie McNally’s fine, precise fiddling often takes the melodic lead, amid the bristling energy of the opening trio of tunes ‘Lady of the Lake’/‘Lady Walpole’/‘Lady Ann Montgomery’, for example. It’s a joy to listen to: smooth, fluid and with an unfussy agility to it, though never lacking in character.

McNally often shares melodic duties with accordionist Emily Troll – the two women almost vie for attention in the breezy ‘Smith’s Reel’/‘Pointe-au-pic’. Guitarist Owen Marshall and pianist Neil Pearlman are hardly relegated to chugging accompaniments, however: Marshall takes melodic lead in ‘Echoes of Scotty O’Neil’ against chiming interjections from Pearlman, and it’s almost as if McNally’s shadowy fiddle line is accompanying Pearlman’s bright piano in ‘Shadows on the Lawn’.

It’s clear that the Pine Tree Flyers has plenty to say about its myriad traditions, as well as the technical prowess and musical insights to say it boldly and inventively. That noted, however, despite a few unexpected harmonic twists and unusual tune reimaginings, an obvious respect for tradition runs deeply through the release.