Second Fiddle

Scotland's Macdonald still playing in the shadow of others.

The Shetland Isles, in the North Sea between Scotland and Norway, possess a venerable tradition of fiddle music that's become part of the Scottish musical mainstream. With Bold, her second solo album, Catriona Macdonald, Shetland's leading young fiddler, follows in the giant footsteps of Aly Bain in exploring the isles' musical heritage.

Bold is a mixed bag. When inspired, as she is on "Eilidh's Trip in Germany" (RealAudio excerpt), Macdonald can ignite a real fire with her bow. All too often, though, the music comes across like a polite Wednesday-night ceilidh — beautifully played but without any real kick. You want her to let her hair down and get wild, but she seems unable to let go, even on the explosive "Shetland Reels" (RealAudio excerpt).

The atmosphere's a little richer when Macdonald looks to the Norwegian side of the sea, as on "Da Silver Bow" (RealAudio excerpt), a contemplative, questioning mood-piece that features a church organ. But such moments are few and far between. That Macdonald is a superb fiddler in love with traditional music is beyond question. But she has yet to ignite the sort of spark that will make her albums explode.