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World Music CD Reviews Europe

ANNBJORG LIEN

By Rob Weir
Published March 3, 2006

Alien’s Alive
North Side

BONNIE RIDEOUT
Scottish Reflections
Maggie’s Music

Two fiddlers, two radically different styles, but seldom has so much bowed musical pleasure been packed into two releases. Annbjorg Lien is the acknowledged mistress of the hardanger fiddle, a temperamental Norwegian style in which a violin is tuned higher than usual. This creates a four-string sympathetic drone with percussive possibilities and greatly extends the range. On Aliens Alive, Lien continues on the fusion-oriented path she began blazing with Baba Yaga (2000), tossing in innovations like Ailo Gaup’s throaty joik singing and using enough orchestration to create sweeping, anthem-like arrangements. American Bonnie Rideout is one of the finest Celtic fiddlers on the planet, as this sample of earlier recordings reveals. She is the traditionalist to Lien’s hipster, playing with such grace and precision as to evoke more the classical violinist than a Scottish folk fiddler. With the exception of Alasdair Fraser, no other Celtic fiddler produces such rich, clean, resonant tones. She bows her way through a repertoire of bagpipe tunes, marches, jigs, reels, and airs, with the latter perhaps the shiniest jewels in her considerable treasury.