Bryony Griffith’s new album is that rare beast, a quintessentially English solo fiddle album. Hover is her second solo CD, but her first wholly instrumental outing. Consisting entirely of “traditional tunes for an English fiddle player”, it’s very much a what-it-says- on-the-tin job – but a thoroughly excellent one at that. Bryony’s sparky, honest-to-good- ness playing style is justly famed, and the sheer vigour and fun with which she invests each bow stroke makes for both compelling and stimulating listening.
There’s an immediacy to Bryony’s playing that’s thoroughly captivating whether she’s tackling hornpipes or tunes for morris or rapper dance; but there’s also a flowing elegance that complements the attack. This juxtaposition undoubtedly stems from Bryony’s background in playing for dancing (including of course the Demon Barber Roadshow), yet her playing and arrangements also exhibit considerable sensitivity and imagination. Especially intriguing is her conversion of the South Yorkshire manuscript tune Burnett’s Jig into a slow air (now that takes some doing!). The disc is equally divided into solo fiddle excursions and selections on which Ian Stephenson deftly yet fierily accompanies and supports Bryony, either on guitar or double bass – the latter’s cheeky syncopations spicing up Radstock (on this issue’s fRoots 69 compilation) and the Hodgson Square Hornpipe, for instance.
I can best recommend Hover by saying that anyone who thinks they’ll get bored with a whole album of tunes played on the fiddle will have their expectations well and truly dashed by Bryony’s stimulating playing, her artistry and good humour.