This Kelso fiddler has had wide success in the Borders and Northumberland with her compositions, based in the Scottish dance band tradition but full of individual character. Her first book of tunes contains 32 pieces, some simple and some challenging, mainly reels and strathspeys with a few jigs, marches and waltzes. There's an introduction and a contents list, one tune per page and a brief background for each composition, often with a colour photo. The whole book is professionally typeset and printed, on good quality paper with large print notation, and the binding opens flat for easy use on a music stand or flat surface. All the tunes are provided with suggested chords by Carly's husband and musical partner Graeme Armstrong, who features in a few of the titles. There are occasional bowing marks for fiddlers.
Starting with the ominous strathspey Choppy Waters, here are a few of my favourites: the crooked waltz Zara Currie, the reel Fry-Ups and the story that goes with it, the jig Bertha, and the reel Knitting Lady written for Carly's formidable mother. Although some of Carly's tunes are straight traditional-style melodies, many have a twist - an odd rhythm, a modal structure in whole or in part, a hypnotically repeating pattern. They also tend to dive down into the fiddle's low octave, often in the second part of the tune, which is unusual in Scottish music: Ms Blain does seem to have a fondness for the G string, no matter what key the tune is in. These 32 melodies are evenly split between sharps and flats, with quite a few compositions in C and the occasional outlier in A or Eb. Some may not be suitable for flutes, whistles and pipes even if transposed, but most can probably be accommodated by experienced players. They all fit on the fiddle, of course! Whatever your standard, you'll find something to suit you in Carly Blain's Tunes. [Alex Monaghan]
Carly Blain, Carly Blain's Tunes, Volume 1. 2017, ISMN 979-0-9002333-4-9, pp36, UK£17 (www.carlyblain.co.uk)
Photo Credits: (1ff) Book/CD Covers, (from website/author/publishers).