During the 1950s and 60s, Cape Breton fiddler William (Bill) Lamey recorded a series of reels, jigs, airs, strathspeys and marches on reel-to-reel tape machines. These recordings were made at house parties and semi-formal recording sessions in the Boston area homes of fiddlers and other lovers of traditional music. In those days, it was hard to hear Celtic/Cape Breton traditional music except through square dances held on holiday weekends and through home recordings.
Lamey was considered the best traditional Cape Breton fiddler of his day. One might expect that Lamey learned the repertoire sitting at the knee of an old Scottish fiddler. The truth is that Lamey learned most of his repertoire from Scottish tune books brought to Cape Breton after World War II by servicemen who had spent time in Europe. Lamey had a talent for choosing the right tunes and putting them together to form perfect dance medleys. His attack was vigorous and his technique was flawless. The Lamey style is described as "the crack of a whip." Moreover, Lamey varied the rhythm of his medleys like the old-style musicians, probably a result of having played primarily for dancers.
Most of the 17 tracks on this collection are cleaned-up versions of those early recordings made in the 50s and 60s. Everything Lamey plays is excellent but his airs are particularly thrilling. His rendition of "Caledonia's Wail for Niel Gow Her Favorite Minstrel" will raise hairs on the back of your neck.
The sound on this recording is decent. Any sonic flaws or inappropriate fades should be ignored because the music-making more than makes up for the less than studio quality. Even if you're not a hard core fiddle or Celtic music fan, Lamey's virtuosity will win you over. - Aaron Howard
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