Review Archive

‘Fists of Violets’ from Sarah Alden - a musical travelogue around her art

(June 28, 2013)

There it is, the impossible has been achieved – someone has taken the energy of New York City, sarahaldenadded tradition-soaked Appalachian mountain music, thrown in some avant-garde touches, mixed with Balkan verve, klezmer attitude and vibrant jazz – and the result ‘Fists of Violets’ from Sarah Alden. This album sweeps into your ear with urgent Eastern European tunes that arrive with energy and end in a frenzy, caresses you through softly-settled waltzes and transports you with songs of reflection, sadness and love.

The mix on the album shows off the skill of this fiddler, singer and songwriter. Sarah places her own compositions carefully among songs from Hoagy Carmichael and Cousin Emmy mixed with her own arrangements of traditional tunes, effortlessly blending her style and influences to deliver a musical travelogue around her art.  The opener ‘Dink’s Tune’ is a sorrowful sensitive song, followed by a step-change with the vitality and urgency of ‘Ida Red’ reflected through some fine fiddle work, and then the eponymous ‘Fists of Violets’ serves up a sumptuous fiddle treat. I love the way this lady hustles the fiddle as she effortlessly takes it places few could go with such dexterity.

There’s a subtle tinge of sadness seamed into the force of ‘Niz Banju Idem’, which leads into the deeply moving traditional ‘When Sorrows Encompass Me’ a true tear-jerker if one ever existed. The album also serves up a stunning version of ‘Old Man Moon’ with its sentimental look at love, and a multi-layered, string-driven ‘Ruby, Honey Are You Mad At Your Man’ – two distinct sides of the same coin and absolutely right.

If you have a taste for tradition and like to hear it evolve while remaining firmly in touch with its roots then listen to ‘Fists of Violets’ from Sarah Alden -

Reviewer: Tom Franks

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