Bridget Marsden and Leif Ottosson Mountain Meeting

2015 Review for Living Tradition Magazine

With Mountain Meeting, Bridget Marsden and Leif Ottosson, two musicians from Stockholm, show a masterful understanding of their instruments and their music: The accordion and fiddle duo create music which is reflective and thoughtful, through carefully crafted interplay between the two instruments, the Swedish and Finnish melodies which they play becoming part of a greater soundscape which sounds as though it’s the product of much more than two instrumentalists. 

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 played by Bridget Marsden with an array of harmonies, bass-lines and rhythms, making their music sound at times like it is being made by far more than just two instrumentalists. When the duo join in playing the melody, Ottosson sounds like another fiddler, mimicking all of Bridget Marsden’s stylistic quirks beautifully. It’s no wonder he’s been credited as “the first to have transferred the traditional fiddler’s style of playing to his instrument”. 

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 from Finland and Sweden lie at the heart of their arrangements, but developing to become the basis for wider musical reflection. At its peaks, the music is both vast and sparse, much like the scenes of mountainous landscapes found inside the album cover. Indeed, in her written introduction to the track from which Mountain Meeting takes its title, Marsden Writes: “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 native village of Achiltibuie would’ve been very different. Linoleum has replaced hard earth flooring, an open fire replaced by spotlights and the pot which hung over it by a gas cooker. 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 like a common language unique to the place. 

Track two on the CD Culkein Waltzes are named for a cove on the Assynt coastline. Those melodies, sung by previous generations of Achiltibuie locals are hauntingly beautiful, particularly the second- Cuir Culaibh ri Assainte. This music is amazing far beyond it’s social and anthropological qualities- it’s a joy to listen to, filled with life and character. It’s easy to see why traditional material such as this inspires much innovative modern composition. 

It’s a refreshing listen, a reminder that traditional music in this simple form can be as rewarding a listen as some of the most innovative new music. Its power as a source of inspiration for new music re-enforcing its place the constantly changing musical world