Matt Stewart

Scratching the Sky

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There are many things that can go wrong when musicians start up their own record label and release a project. When the venture is a labor of love, as this disc and many others surely are, then production debacles or critical nitpicking becomes of secondary importance. The amount of integrity and commitment invested in these kinds of recordings often depends on the integrity of the music itself, a main reason so many independent recordings in purely commercial styles such as rock & roll wind up shelved in the category of unappealing. Not so the maiden voyage of FPM records and the duo of fiddler and vocalist Lisa Boucher and vocalist, guitarist, and bouzouki maestro Matt Stewart. What this pair is into is traditional Irish music, and they play this honest and unpretentious style extremely well. It is a beautifully recorded project in which the legacy of this music rings through loud and clear. Several medley tracks in the four-plus minutes range are particularly warm, the players revealing the intricate melodies and turnarounds as if hiking to the top of a Scottish munro for a view of the surrounding countryside. "The Humours of Whiskey" is stretched out nicely, while the pair of themes entitled "Bill McEvoy's Number 1 and 2" are as tightly laced as a construction worker's boots. Some additional players shore up the proceedings. Ethan James, a Los Angeles-based expert in this type of music who has made some sublime hurdy-gurdy recordings, is featured on penny whistle, and yes, that' the same Ethan James who recorded all the Minutemen's albums. The Glen Irish Tuesday Choir provides background vocals on "A Pair of Brown Eyes," an impressive production move for neophytes.

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