"Your record is terrific. Give me that good old seventeen and a half four any time."
David Amram

"There are moments of true brilliance in this zany musical eclecticism ..... Leigh Cline's ORIENT EXPRESS is technically impeccable, and acoustically thrilling."



Alana Cline is a young fiddler who has been building a fine reputation in Canada. She deserves to be better known here. With strong support from her father Leigh on guitar, she has come up with an album which reflects her exposure from the age of eight to the Irish, Scottish and Cape Breton traditions. Her tutors have included Cape Breton fiddler Sandy MacIntyre and Irish fiddler Maeve Donnelly, and she was the first Canadian to be accepted at the Meitheal School of Irish Traditional Music in Limerick. That’s some of the background. In the foreground are 10 sets of tunes which had me dancing round the room and punching the air in delight. Her playing has strong melodies, bounce and vibrancy, with subtlety and inventiveness in all the right places. The Kerry Lassie Set was learnt from Maeve Donnelly and Huntingstone Castle Set from Sandy MacIntyre. I did hear the different traditions coming closer together into a distinctive style. Drowsy Maggie Variations is an outstanding demonstration of this process. Leigh’s accompaniment on guitar helps his daughter fly. He has had a long career as a folk music performer, festival organiser and sound engineer. His interest in Balkan music is reflected here in his composition Offset. He learnt two tunes in the Slip Jigs set from Aly Bain and The Boys Of The Lough during their early North American tours. The album is on the Toronto-based Scimitar Records label. It is not too hard to find, and well worth the effort.

Tony Hendry.

Issue 282

Al Asha Bi Daha: Traditional Songs of the Eastern Black Sea
Scimitar Records SRD 0601

The title is a traditional Black Sea call for flagging dancers to rejoin the circle: one more time! Canadian multi-instrumentalist Leigh Cline is rightly respected for his work in Greek and Turkish traditions, and here he teams up with Greek vocalist Nikolas Michailidis for a set of 16 pieces from the Turkey/Georgia border.

Of Black Sea ancestry, Michailidis plays the three-stringed Pontic fiddle called Pontiaki lyra in Greek and Karadeniz kemencesi in Turkish (much of the repertoire is common to the two communities) as well as the imposing davul drum. His authoritative renditions provide the main narrative of this CD. These are traditional pieces but what distinguishes the production from many similar releases is Cline’s success in creating a soundscape that is both danceable and repays repeated, close listening. He plays guitar throughout. Now, bad guitar playing – sometimes by famous names – can drown modal music by the crass use of primary and sophisticated chords, but Cline displays a musical intelligence that complements and enhances the intriguing harmonic implications of this non-harmonic music. Also, he has negotiated a tempo that invites appreciation of the vocal and lyra line, as well as the underlying pulse. Combine this with a technically sensitive recording of the vocals and fiddle that has rarely been bettered and the result is a delightful, refreshing CD of Black Sea music.

Chris Williams

Issue 258

Scimitar Records SRD 0402

A happy collision - sorry, deliberate meeting - of elements of Greek and Celtic music under the guiding hand of Canadian Cline, long-time fan/player of both traditions. Mixing musicians from each culture, what came to mind when this played was Planxty's Timedance, all kinds of ethnic ideas swirl around in a big production that ends up fast enough to knacker the Roadrunner.