Bridget Marsden and Leif Ottosson Mountain Meeting

2015 Review for Living Tradition Magazine

With Mountain Meeting, Stockholm based Bridget Marsden and Leif Ottosson, display a masterful understanding of their instruments and tradition: The accordion and fiddle duo create music which is reflective and thoughtful, through carefully crafted interplay between the two instruments, Swedish and Finnish melodies become part of a greater soundscape seeming the product of much more than two. 

Leif Ottosson is a skilled and imaginative accordionist. His chosen instrument has an enormous range of different combinations of reeds creating different tones, with names such as: “Piccolo”, “Clarinet”, “Violin” and “Oboe”.  His imaginative use of these different timbres sees him become something of a one man orchestra, surrounding melodies led by Marsden with a symphonic array of harmonies, bass-lines and rhythms. When the duo unite on the melody, Ottosson's credit as having been “the first to have transferred the traditional fiddler’s style of playing to his instrument” is plainly justified.

The music they create together is beautiful. It ebbs and flow, building to epic proportions before dying away to something minute. Their inspired approach sees their original and traditional melodies developing to become the basis for wider musical reflection. At its peaks, the music is both vast and sparse, as the scenes of mountainous landscapes making their album artwork. Providing what Marsden describes in the album's written introduction: “High up on a mountain side. Still, cool and calm. A place for thinking”.

Rhu Beag

2015 Review for Living Tradition Magazine

Rewind 200 years, and the scene inside Springwell, Kevin MacLeod’s croft house in our shared native village of Achiltibuie would’ve been very different. Linoleum replaced by hard earth flooring, spotlights by an open fire and the gas cooker by a black iron pot, suspended over open peat flames. The table round which the musicians sat -the heart of the cèilidh- would definitely not have come from Ikea. 

What hasn’t changed is the music. On their newest release Rhu Beag, Kevin MacLeod, Ali Beag MacLeod, Alisdair Fraser and Will MacLean play melodies played, sung, shared and enjoyed around Achiltibuie kitchen tables for generations, shared between neighbours, friends and family members. A common language, unique to the place. 

Track two on the CD- Culkein Waltzes- is named for a cove on the Assynt coastline. Those melodies, sung by, and handed through generations of Achiltibuie locals are hauntingly beautiful, particularly the second- Cuir Culaibh ri Assainte. This melody a particular reminder of of the amazement and beauty to be found in this music, far beyond it’s social and anthropological qualities, for which it's often primarily seen. 

This is a refreshing listen, a reminder of the beauty to be found in the simplicity and humanity of this original form. It feels rooting and comforting, in the face of this constantly, and rapidly changing musical world.