The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: Folk fiddling explores music from both sides of the Atlantic
Musicians: Notorious
Composer: Various

The Notorious central duo of fiddler–singer Eden MacAdam-Somer and guitarist–banjo-player Larry Unger are joined by mandolin, percussion and bass here in a collection of traditional and original American folk tunes, peppered with a couple of Eastern European tunes.

There’s not a preamble in sight as they launch straight into the Bluegrassy title track, setting the tone of much of the album: the ensemble is tight but unfussy, propulsive without forcing the pace or the volume and with a bass that brings depth but not attack. The fiddle is able to weave easily but deftly around this, with lower-string harmonies melding into the group sound and the tune bobbing along on the surface.

There’s an understated variety running through the disc, too. MacAdam-Somer slots into the Latin feel of Sumari’s Waltz with a looser sense of time and longer, caressing strokes; and while her rather Celtic take on a Romanian wedding song might unsettle the aficionado, she proves that she has a Balkan style in her kitbag elsewhere. Additionally, the use of viola in a couple of songs brings a gruff voice to an album that makes its mark without needing to dazzle.

Chris Elcombe