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Beyond the Stacks

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Album Review

Aly Bain and Ale Möller are tremendously good together — but then again, you can hardly ask for a better duo, where the Scots/Shetland sound of fiddler Bain meets the several instruments (mandola, harmonica, Jew's harp) of Swedish folk legend Möller. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more simpatico duo, meeting, for the most part, on the middle ground of Shetland music, but played with glorious finesse (just listen to the breathtaking delicacy of "Da Slockit Light," for example). They're perfectly at home with uptempo material, but it's on the slower pieces that the beauty of this pairing truly comes through, whether it's "Hector the Hero," where Bain caresses his fiddle lines and Möller gives spare, emotional support, or the lament "Auld Swaara." When a record is this lyrical, there's absolutely no need for a voice — or even any more instruments. There's an empathetic communication between the two that knows when to fill the gaps and when to leave space. At a little under 50 minutes it might seem short by today's standards, but the disc is so dense with melody that it truly seems longer (in the very best way). The Swedish tunes here mesh perfectly with those from Shetland, showing just how one tradition feeds into another. This isn't their first recording together (that was in 1999, Fully Rigged), but age has brought a true patina of beauty to their work together. Exquisite is a word that's overused at times, but it describes this album perfectly.

Beyond the Stacks, Aly Bain and Ale Möller
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