Music review: Ryan Young (with Jenn Butterworth)

Ryan Young plays with grace and power, remaining true to Scots fiddle tradition.
Ryan Young plays with grace and power, remaining true to Scots fiddle tradition.
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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Ryan Young cuts a slight, faintly elfin figure, stooped intently to his fiddle beneath the ornately domed grandeur of the Merchants’ Hall.

Merchant’s Hall (Venue 112)

*****

Playing almost entirely old Scots tunes, he opens, as is his wont, with an initially restrained, slow and swooping take on a reel, The Back of the Change House, every note seemingly delivered only after due consideration. Then he’s into another reel, The Nine Pint Coggie, but the tempo’s cranked up dramatically and it fairly flies, driven by the driving thrum of accompanist Jenn Butterworth’s guitar, as Young appears to become entirely possessed by the tune, knees jerking, feet slapping.

Voted Up and Coming Artist of the Year at last December’s Scots Trad Music Awards, Young professes to be infatuated with the auld Scots fiddle collections (he can also come up with some accomplished compositions of his own), but while he remains true to these tunes of rare pedigree, his style bears the stamp of Clare fiddle music – particularly that of his hero, the renowned Martin Hayes – in its often unhurried and eloquent fluidity.

Despite the Irish garb, however, the Scots nature of the tune will out, as the slow, stately march John MacColl’s Farewell, dipping and sighing almost to a crawl but with dramatic emphasis from resounding double-stopping, or another reel set that reached a powerful climax with Harris Dance before drawing to a graceful conclusion. Butterworth, meticulously responsive throughout, gave fine if brief voice to a solitary song, this time a contemporary choice in Boo Hewerdine’s dance hall celebration, Wings in My Heels, which might just as well apply to Young’s fingers.

He may have a self-deprecatory manner, with a tendency to play on his boyish cuteness, but when in full, impassioned flow he’s a force of nature.

Today & 27 August. Today 6pm; 27th 1pm.