Blazin' Fiddles Queen's Hall, Edinburgh ****
SOME 13 years since they first gathered for a one-off tour, Blazin' Fiddles have latterly bidden an amicable farewell to three co-founders: Aidan O'Rourke, guitarist Marc Clement – both in 2009 – and Catriona Macdonald last autumn. Playing both guitar and fiddle, Anna Massie was the inaugural new recruit, while Jenna Reid has now stepped into her fellow Shetlander's shoes, alongside original members Bruce MacGregor, Iain MacFarlane, Allan Henderson and pianist Andy Thorburn.
On the penultimate night of a ten-day Scottish tour, promoting their fifth album Thursday Night in the Caley, the invigorating effects of a rejigged group dynamic were just as clearly in evidence. Matching fresh zest and sparkle with richly seasoned artistry, the show built up steam from silkily orchestrated polish to signature fiery overdrive, until the mood resembled late-night ceilidh.
While the band's ensemble arrangements have steadily evolved in ambition and sophistication, epitomised by the bravura Strolkas set, which morphed three classic strathspeys into breakneck Irish polkas, a solo turn by each fiddler has featured in their concerts since that very first tour, simultaneously enhancing the programme's variety and highlighting individual contributions to the mix.
As they took turns introducing one another, it was also the pretext for some healthily hammed-up rivalry, with Reid's magisterial opening slow air and MacFarlane's marvellously sweet, sinewy pipe tunes medley claiming joint top honours on this occasion.