Music review

BY Sue Wilson



FIDDLER Jamie Smith has been a musicians' musician on the Scottish folk scene for a good many years now. If he's less familiar to audiences, it's largely because he moved to London in 2002 to work in TV news – whose loss is now those audiences' gain, Smith having jacked in the media career 18 months ago to play music full-time. The Long Notes is a newish name for his well-seasoned trio with Galway accordionist Colette O'Leary – formerly of the much-missed Bumblebees – and London-Irish banjo/mandolin ace Brian Kelly. They usually add a singer and/or guitarist to their live line-up, both roles occupied here by the current BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year, Ewan Robertson.

It's a line-up of copious strengths, and they played expertly to all of them. As each individual took their turn in the spotlight, highlights ranged from Kelly's astoundingly fleet-fingered picking, as wild as it was exquisite, to Robertson's audacious, jig-tempo version of Richard Thompson's Beeswing. Their ensemble playing, meanwhile, was nothing short of sublime, especially in the dance sets – implausibly quick yet immaculately detailed, brilliantly intense yet utterly supple, silkily dovetailed in a thrilling panoply of colour, texture and taut-sprung rhythms. Unsurprisingly, Scottish and Irish material formed the bulk of their repertoire, a discerning mix of traditional, contemporary and original tunes, plus the odd American or Galician number. A not dissimilar mix, on paper, to many a contemporary Celtic act, but the magic that The Long Notes make with it is truly something else.