I had never heard of Elizabeth Davidson-Blythe before and no wonder: she is a young American fiddler whose first album, The Coast Road, a collaboration with guitarist Daniel Quayle, was only recently released.
But I will be very much surprised if I will not hear of her much more in the future, since The Coast Road is, to put it simply, quite wonderful. I know I am prone to use hyperbole when I like something but in this instance I do it deliberately.
Not only do I wish to make a point that this is indeed only her first release, but that the album is full of music so positive and so uplifting, not to mention expertly played, that I cannot but call it wonderful.
The tunes are mostly original, with a couple of borrowed ones and one traditional. Most are uptempo, with just a few calmer moments. They may not be terribly original or cast any new light on Scottish-based fiddling – but they are strong, each and everyone of them, and they all come with a spark that will light up the room you are in.
I am not a musicologist so when I say that sometimes American trad musicians bring that little extra energy to Celtic music, it is my hunch and subjective feeling alone. But in this very case I do feel strongly that this album is a most happy marriage of Scottish traditional roots and American vibrancy.
Elizabeth’s playing is confident and lively and just energizing. I love the ever so slightly rough and even dark-toned edge there is to her fiddle sound; even when belting out a happy tune it’s robust and rounded. As most of the tunes are written or co-written by her, she owns the music and lets it sing naturally and forcefully but without using force – a Zen ideal realized in Celtic music once again.
An important element on the album is the excellent guitar playing by Manxman Daniel Quayle who acts as a one-man rhythm section and also harmonic element with his really tight but also rich playing. There are a couple of tunes where the rhythmic patterns of the guitar and the fiddle intersect very interestingly and bring a nice new element to the proceedings.
And as the brilliant Tómas Callister (Ímar, Mec Lir) and Ciaran Ryan (Dallahan) appear as guests on a few tracks, there you have an album that will… I dunno, brighten your dark winter days and nights? Bring hope to the world?
Something good anyway, and I can tell you it sounded mighty fine and empowering when I listened to it walking in our nearby forest, now in full Finnish winter mode, the woods dressed in snow. The music was like the crackle of a fireplace against the all white landscape, and suddenly I wasn’t cold at all. Good medicine, say I.
Elizabeth Davidson-Blythe – you remember that name, folks. With a opener like this, I’m dying to hear what the next chapter will bring…
The Coast Road is on the major streaming platforms but please check it out on Bandcamp where you can not only listen to it (up to five times for free) but also purchase it in digital or physical formats and so directly support the artist selling their music on the Bandcamp platform.