Album Reviews

“brimful of character”
Scotland on Sunday

“Brought up in a musical family in Easter Ross and Skye (music publishers Taigh na Teud/Harpstring House) and with a fiddle in his hands by the age of three, it’s no surprise that Ronan (now 30) became one of Scotland’s finest fiddlers. Unpretentious and never rushed, he plays the classic dance music of the north and west with toe-tapping energy and considerable finesse. Accompanied solely by Old Blind Dog’s Jonny Hardie on acoustic guitar, these strathspeys, marches, reels, jigs and smattering of slow airs are brimful of character.”  Norman Chalmers

“an uplifting and joyful style” FiddleOn Magazine

“Ronan Martin is an accomplished fiddler from Skye, and this is his first album. On it, he plays a collection of traditional and more recent tunes from the Highlands of Scotland, accompanied sympathetically throughout by Jonny Hardie (Old Blind Dogs) on guitar.  The collection is interesting and very varied, and includes jigs, reels, strathspeys, marches and airs. The background to each set of tunes is described in the cover notes in great detail, and this adds to the interest. Ronan’s playing is a genuine pleasure to listen to, he achieves a great tone and is very expressive in the slower tunes. The album contains two lovely airs, ‘The New House in St Peter’s’ and ‘When You See a Pretty Girl’, which are remarkable for their beauty and elegance, and I could recommend the album for these two tracks alone.  The jigs and reels are played in an uplifting and joyful style, and the whole collection is a wonderful treasure trove of Highland music, highly recommended!”  Kevin Urben

“in the old style, with knobs on” The Living Tradition

“Skyeman Ronan Martin was tempted out of his design workshop by fellow fiddler Jonny Hardie, who plays back-up guitar on this recording. Whether by the mythical warmth of Aberdonian hospitality, or the unaccustomed smoothness of east coast malts, Ronan’s playing here is inspired and energised. From the strutting steps of The Hen’s March to the final driving notes of Mrs MacPherson, this is west highland fiddle music in the old style, with knobs on. Ronan’s repertoire is full of west coast classics: Isabelle Blackley, Bogan Lochan, The Bonawe Highlanders, Put Me in the Big Chest, The Sprig of Ivy, The Nine Pint Coggie, Kenny MacDonald’s Jig and then a Cape Breton style nine-minute medley of strathspeys and reels.  Big tunes boldly played, with minimal mucking about.

Many of these melodies would also fit on the highland pipes, and the style has been influenced by pipers, but this is fiddle music through and through. The rapid runs, the dancing bow, the double-stopping and glissando ornamentation all mould a tune such as Cuir Sa Chiste Mhor Mi to the fiddle. Many of the nuances of west highland music come from the Gaelic language which was shared by pipers and fiddlers, so the shape of a strathspey like Cha Toir Iain Mor an Nighean Dhomh is dictated by the words of the associated mouth-music which also shaped the piping version: chicken and egg in many cases, but the Gaelic language definitely gives a recognisable character to this music. Nowhere is this more true than in the Gaelic slow airs such as Nuair a Chi Thu Caileag Bhoidheach, played beautifully here. As far as I am aware, there are no words to the more recent air The New House in St Peter’s, which Ronan interprets with equal passion and skill. The final two tracks step slightly out of the box: a super-slow version of The Humours of Cork contrasts with an eclectic selection of reels which ends on G S McLennan’s legendary Mrs MacPherson of Inveran. Powerful stuff!”  Alex Monaghan

“astonishingly crisp and powerful” Fiddler Magazine (USA)

“A number of years ago I spent an eleven day stay in Sabhal Mňr Ostaig on the Isle of Skye. It was a marathon of fiddle playing devoid of English language and an allocation of only 26 hours of sleep. During that time I was mesmerised by the playing of a new acquaintance, Ronan Martin, a native of Skye. For a very young man his playing was hallmarked with artistry, vibrancy, wonder, purity and much more. It was a joyous celebration of a very deep beauty.

Since then Ronan has continued to grow musically and refine his playing. The result of that development has emerged in a brilliant solo recording of twelve tracks encompassing 7 jigs, 16 reels 6 strathspeys 5 marches and 2 airs. The performances throughout are astonishingly crisp and powerful with tasteful guitar accompaniment from Jonny Hardie.  While older Scottish musicians ponder what might become of Scottish fiddling, its tenderness is safe in the hands of Ronan Martin. Its boldness and courage are bolstered by his firm stance of dedication to beauty, lift, drive and passion. This recording confirms all this. It is a masterful work of splendour that will endure.”  Caoimhín MacAoidh

“fresh, natural and enjoyable” Scottish Fiddlers’ Calendar

“After a succession of fine recordings by young fiddlers, here to complete the bumper crop of 2008 is an excellent CD from the young Skye fiddler.  Ronan is a popular session player and in the last few years has also toured abroad as a soloist and with groups.  This solo album is therefore overdue, and worth waiting for.
Coming from a well-known musical family (his parents own publishers Taigh na Teud, who have done so much to promote our music) Ronan started playing at the age of 3.  His well-chosen tunes on this album come from the fiddle and bagpipe repertoire, Gaelic music, Cape Breton and contemporary sources, but, as they say, it ain’t what you play but the way that you play it, and his relaxed West Coast style gives a pleasant uniformity to the performance.
Jonny Hardie (also known as the fiddler with Old Blind Dogs) provides a gently supportive guitar accompaniment. The recording was made in a domestic situation, which enhances its special quality as unadulterated fiddle music, fresh, natural and enjoyable. If you haven’t spent all your Christmas money, go out and buy this – it’s on WILDCD101. Eric Allan

“a lovely, graceful fiddle player with a fine sensitive touch”
BBC Radio Scotland Bruce MacGregor


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