IT’S usually bands that grab the attention, but much of Scottish folk music’s strength in depth today derives from its duos. It’s an austerity- friendly format, often a vital component in the modern musician’s multi-pocketed portfolio career. So many Scottish duos, though, take the whole more-than-the-sum-of-their-parts thing to positively exponential levels, and with their new gig/film/album project Air Iomall – “On the Edge” – young Highland fiddle/piano duo Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach just raised the bar again.
Charlie Grey & Joseph Peach: Air Iomall, Kirkcaldy Acoustic Music Club *****
Entirely off their own bat, the pair set sail last year, on a former herring boat, around Scotland’s now-uninhabited, lore-steeped westernmost fringes – the Flannan Isles, the Shiants, North Rona and Sula Sgeir – writing music inspired by each place, before performing it on St Kilda.
Along for the ride was filmmaker Hamish MacLeod, whose vivid, informally intimate chronicle of the journey comprised the second half of this touring show – ideally tailored, courtesy of 21st- century technology, to any folk club that can rustle up a screen – after an utterly captivating live set. The new album’s studio recordings, meanwhile, are followed by that St Kilda première in full (wherein local logistics found Peach on accordion/harmonium rather than his customary keyboard).
As both composers and players, the duo display enthralling prowess and attunement, here often blissfully rapt in each other’s musical company – as indeed were we. While Martin Hayes’s revelatory influence shines through Grey’s almost sculptural, yet wholly organic approach to a tune, questing for its utmost variety and potential, the Scot’s intensely evocative voicings are strikingly his own, complemented by Peach with equally exquisite understatement and tendresse, subtly commingling trad, jazz, classical and minimalist accents.
Touring until 30 November, www.cgjpmusic.com