James M Law: Fiddle
Graeme McGillivray: Guitar
Jacob McCauley: Bodhrán
I think Bold is an album that has been conceived meticulously and produced artfully. Every track, every nuance is captured and believe me when I say that there is not a single track in this album that fails to induce a smile. I’ve often wondered what is it about Celtic music that captivates the spirit and creates this palpable sense of joy. I think like food, an album has to be conceived where preparation goes hand in hand with the mood of the performers. All those long hours trying to play, and then more hours in the studio mixing and mastering each track.
The approach of NUA in their music has always been a shared ideas of the three members. This is something I noted in past interview where all members share this cohesive idea about the intent and concept of their releases, starting with their EP. They have incorporated the same tunes on the EP, but some of them (especially Fizzbuzz) has been re-worked and recording at a much higher level. The carrier single is the captivating The Dark Road. There is that color of suspense and mystery at the start of the track, and later on, exploding into a climax of robust play of traditional instruments.
NUA has always conveyed energy in their tunes. But this is balanced by the stately melodies. This quality can be found in Ecklunds and Flying CDs. Perhaps it is how they put emphasis on the nuance of playing, or they are just masters of weaving tunes that evoke gossamer harmonies on top of driving rhythms.
NUA is rooted in Traditional Irish/Scottish music, but it’s the experimentation, originality and the thirst to push the limits of traditional music that defines their sound.There is that unmistakable manner in which they play their instruments that allow them to cross over. Something unspoken but resonant. Something magical and pure which NUA truly represent.
Bold by NUA: An in depth listening experience.
Bold is like a train journey that starts with an intro and closes with outro. The journey as I described above in general was an intoxicating experience. But how does it really sound like if we take it apart track by track? Below are my findings .
Intro: The suspended chord pattern and effects set the mood for what’s to come. The train has opened its doors to me and here I go. There is that friendly and optimistic tone that marks this piece that is a minute and a half long. When I listen to this, I feel like I am waiting for an exciting play to happen. There is that brightness in the music and a sense of anticipation.
In Fizzbuzz , I noticed that steady instrumental sound. It isn’t the keyboards since they all play acoustic instruments. It sounds like a guitar with this consistent steady sound. I asked Jacob what it is. And he said it is Graeme bowing his guitar with James’s bow. I have heard this method done by rock musicians but to be incorporated by a trad band, the experience is totally unique. It’s the an alien has landed and I am waiting for the space ship to open. UFO on a train journey. Not bad.
The Draw proves to be an exciting fuel. Because of how the track was re recorded and little details were added, The Draw sounds fuller. The Bodhran ‘talks’ to me while the fiddle has this lush sound. The is exciting because it is upbeat and crystal clear. It mimics how a bird beats it wings as it tries to catch up with the train. I’m on the window looking out. The world opens up to possibilities.
In Ecklunds, the rhythm takes control. This track makes me feel like I want to do step dancing. It has that inviting melody. Sort of sensual, playful and warm. I heard this is a tune that was made a long time ago. I will definitely ask them about it in an upcoming interview.
One can’t deny the Jazz influence in Happy Cammy Drammy Birthday. The mood this sound creates is unique. It has that interesting sound. I’d describe it as seductive. I think this is how something like honey, whiskey combined with lemon.
I sense suspense in The Driving Song . It is like a train has started and an adventure awaits. But yes you have to go through different scenes and this tune is telling me that the journey is more interesting than the destination. There are surprises as the structure of the tune shifts and goes back.
The mood becomes intoxicated with The Thistle and the Daffodil. This tune has that nice pounding intro that sounds commanding. Crisp surface of sounds coming from the guitar which in its wispy mixing almost sounds like a substitute for cymbals. This tune tells me that one has to be bold when taking a journey. Yes it think it’s the fiddle saying that and the guitar trying to confirm that the idea is true. The beat is optimistic as it makes me see flowers and trees in my mind. With the sun beating down on the train.
The Dark Road sounds like a train ride entering a tunnel. The interesting part happens in 1:35 when I feel like I am approaching the darkness of the tunnel. The pounding notes remind me of broken lights that zoom by. And after, the train moves into the light and all is fine again.
From exhilarating mood, the album shifts to a more warmer and romantic nature of Rich with Heart.This is a ‘love’ track. A break from the pounding energy of the previous tracks proves to be a nice one. A love proposal on the journey? Perhaps a marriage inside the train? Who knows. Anything is possible when you let your imagination go. And this is a tune that is beautifully written.
The warm mood still lingers with Peter and Michelles. This one is a waltz that reminds me of music played during a buffet. It is welcoming and warm. Something that is played on open door gatherings and parties involving people who know each other. And once again the speed picks up with Flying CDs.
How these three musicians can make a tune sound like an orchestral piece is always what NUA is all about. The layering of the fiddle is fantastic. And the title itself Flying CDs make me think of childish pranks and good times.
Martyns Yellow Teapot has a very Scottish melody. I learned it is a tribute to the late Martyn Bennet. The melody reminds me of sun flowers. Sun flowers on the field on this journey as the noon sun continues to shine.
The journey is almost done with The Hijack. I always listen to the bohdran in this track. The tatatatata is hypnotic. It’s as if the instrument is talking to you.
The adventure ends with the outro. It is already afternoon and it is time to rest. Bold has accomplished what music is supposed to do: to transport listeners to another world or experience. It is a fantastic listening experience that will make lovers of Celtic and instrumental music come back for more.
Track Listing and Composers:
Intro : Law, McGillivray, McCauley
Fizzbuzz : Law & McGillivray
The Draw : Law & McGillivray
Ecklands : Law & McGillivray
Happy Cammy Drammy Birthday: Michael Ferrie, arranged by NUA
Maggie Lake: McGillivray
Driving Song : Oliver Schroer, arranged by NUA
The Thistle and the Daffodil: Law & McGillivray
The Dark Road : McGillivray
Rich with Hart : Law & McGillivray
MacCarthers Road : Traditional
Peter and Michelles : Law & McGillivray
Flying CDs: Law
Martyn’s Yellow Tea Pot : Law & McGillivray
The Hijack : Law & McGillivray
Mallaig Two Step : Law
Outro : Law, McGillivray, McCauley