I've gotten a few great reviews on my CD "There & Then, Here & Now," including a write-up in the IRISH ECHO, the Oldest Irish American Newspaper in the USA, as well as the CEILI, the newsletter from the Southwest Celtic Music Association (SCMA) based in Dallas, Texas.
Also included is the very first review, written by my friend, bandmate and amazing singer/songwriter Deanna Smith Scotland. I'm very blessed to have such talented friends!
Ceili (SCMA Newsletter)
IRISH ECHO, June 4, 2014
TRADITIONAL MUSIC / by Daniel Neely
The other release to talk about this week is Linda Relph’s new CD, “Fiddlinda: There & Then, Here & Now.”
Relph is a stalwart of Irish fiddling from Texas. She plays in the trad combo Coolin and the Celtic rock-blues band Jiggernaut, and she gigs and teaches throughout the South. This, her solo debut, is filled with capable playing and thoughtful arrangements to which she brings a keen sense of personal style.
Although Relph is the album’s feature player, she is joined throughout by Joseph Carmichael on guitar (with additional contributions on bouzouki and flute) and Chris Dunlap on bodhran, cajon and vocals.
The album also includes several strong guest artists. Daniel Mehalko (Flashpoint) adds some driving banjo on “Mayor Harrison’s Fedora / …” and “Woman • Man • Long,” and mandolin on “Strayaway Child.” Ken Fleming (who is well known through his work with the O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat and the Traditional Irish Music Education Society, among other things) brings a great banjo sound to the several tracks he appears on. One of most interesting guest spots is by John Relph, who plays mandolin on a couple of tracks, although the most interesting of them is Bach’s “Two-Part Invention” (No. 8 in F Maj, BWV 779), which is given a lovely fiddle-mandolin duet treatment.
One of the interesting things about Relph’s playing – in addition to the obvious respect she has for the tunes themselves – is the particular “accent” she brings.
There is, at times, a bit of a “western swing” sound to her playing, which adds some memorable character. I think specifically, for example, of her phrasing on parts of “Mason’s Apron”and “Miller’s Reel,” but it’s heard on several of the album’s tracks.
Relph has included several original tunes on this album, the nicest of these perhaps being “O’Flaherty’s Retreat Jig.” Further, there is some great creativity in the album’s arrangements scattered throughout, although perhaps none as dramatic as that in the first reel section of “David’s Jig.” It turns what could be a fairly straightforward track into something much more interesting.
On balance, “Fiddlinda” is a solid album. It’s one that will absolutely delight Relph's fans and should also help attract new ones.
Ceili (May-June 2014)
By Chuck Bloom / Ceili editor
Linda Relph: 'Fiddlinda: There & Then - Here & Now'
One of the most anticipated new CDs of 2014 – “Fiddlinda: There & Then – Here & Now” comes from DFW fiddler Linda Relph for a variety of reasons. There is her former connection to two popular Metro-plex groups (The Killdares, NeedFire), her stint as fiddler for one of California's better Celtic-folk groups (Nine-8ths Irish, out of Sacramento) and her current inclusion with Jiggernaut, another well-loved Celtic rock group, out of Fort Worth.
Everyone knows her and judging from the response to her expert playing, everyone loves her. Hopefully, that love will expand among the public with the release of her first solo CD.
The 14-track recording, engineered by Travis Ener at his Rockin’ T Studios in Princeton, is a vast cataloging of her performance career through favored pieces – all of which are outstanding.
On the CD, Relph is joined by her husband, Chris Dumlap, on bodhran and handling lead vocals, plus the multi-talented Joseph Carmichael (having known Relph from a short stint with NeedFire and currently a member of Flashpoint and Oga).
“Fiddlinda” is also a showcase for some of the area’s best musicians, who assisted Relph on various tracks, including Jigsaw’s Ken Fleming, guitarist John Burleson (a member of Relph’s trio, Coolin), Flashpoint’s Daniel Mehalko (on banjo and mandolin), former NeedFire drummer Trey Ware, ex-Killdare partner Jesse Owsley (bouzouki) and flutist Janis Deane.
Relph’s story has been told often in the pages of this publication:
• began playing violin at the age of 10 ½, but converted full-time to Irish-style fiddling following a 1979 exchange student visit to Ireland;
• a former four-time California States Ladies’ Champion, who also placed twice in the top five at the National Oldtime Fidders’ Contest in Weiser, ID;
• a native of Chico, Calif. and graduate from Chico State University, she first settled in Dallas to start her career with the group, Waifs-n-Strays;
• also played Pegasus Project, Moveable Feast, Cuckoo’s Nest, and founding member of The Killdares in 1996 (until 2002);
• moved back to California to be closer to her family and forming yet another band, Nine-8ths Irish, recording three CDs;
• returned to Texas in 2011, joined NeedFire through mid-2013 and is in the present Jiggernaut lineup, performs with Coolin, as well as the weekly Trinity Hall Sessions Players at the Dallas restaurant-pub on Sundays and the weekly session at J. Gilligan’s Pub in Arlington.
A few tracks on “Fiddlinda” are re-workings of old Nine-8ths Irish tunes, as well as many with close personal meaning to Relph. The opener is “Tony’s Celebration,” dedication to her husband’s late younger brother, who sadly took his own life in 2012. It is joined by “Mason’s Apron,” a solid reminder of her initial days playing Texas-style fiddle.
Another highlight is the soulful “Goodbye to Ocean Boulevard,” a tune introduced to Relph by teenage fiddling sensation Hailey Sandoz, along with Dunlap singing on a Luka Bloom song, “City of Chicago.”
Relph even ventures into the classics (Bach to be specific) for just a minute (actually 61 seconds) with “Invention No. 8 in F Major BWV 779.” It is a family collaboration with her brother, John on fiddle and mandolin. Linda was introduced to the tune by her mother and sister, Adrienne, who were classical pianists, and while it is short, the result is still an outstanding non-Celtic classical sound, worthy of any chamber ensemble.
Relph’s rendition of the Celtic classic, “She Moved Through The Fair” is a slow intricate, delicate weaving of her violin (with only four layers of tracks) to produce a perfect blending of the harmonies.
She pays tribute to the annual Dallas-based O’Flaherty’s Adult Music Retreat Camp (from 2012) when she wrote a jig after the Saturday night ceili. Ironically, Relph is joined on the track by Fleming on banjo, the Retreat’s founder.
The CD’s finale is a three-part collection, simply called “CarRec,” short for “David’s Jig-Catharsis-The Reconciliation,” pieces which she has been perfecting since the Nine-8ths Irish days in Sacramento and in Dallas with NeedFire. The initial jig was written by Natalie MacMaster, with whom Relph was able to meet-and-greet at the recent North Texas Irish Festival, and is the perfect end to an excellent album.
The CD consists of 14 “official” tracks, but if listener stays with the recording until the very end, he or she will be rewarded with a bonus song (“Toar’s Big Deck”) – a whimsical little number.
Having put more than 60 hours of sweat equity in the studio, and even more time simply waiting out the results, Relph should be proud of her initial solo effort.
I’m sure all her friends, followers and fans would agree. Now they’ll want more…
Deanna Smith Scotland
“Fiddlinda” is a thoughtful record. The selection of songs and tunes reflect the breadth and depth of Relph’s playing. “2 Part Invention” is a treatment of the JS Bach piano piece, featuring a violin mandolin duet. It is refreshing and cheery, with the fiddle and mandolin dancing lightly around the melody and each other. In “Tripping Down The Stairs/The Flogging Reel/Ten Pound Float, Relph leads us on a merry chase, the driving guitar and banjo are the perfect accompaniment to the joyous fiddle. Her delicate touch can be heard in the Air “She Moved Through The Fair.” It can be risky playing such a beloved tune without an additional accompaniment, but Relph does it masterfully, each note full and complete, each phrase rising and falling leaving the listener craving more.
Relph brings her formidable talent to this project; her considerable skills as a musician are matched by her skills as an arranger, and composer. Relph has chosen to record some of her own compositions (five tunes in all) as well as some of the best loved Irish tunes. She has chosen wisely. The quality of her writing stays true to the genre, while offering a contemporary point of view. “Tony’s Celebration Reel” (a tune celebrating the life of her brother-in-law) is paired with “The Mason’s Apron,” perhaps the most well known Irish tune of all time. The result is seamless; the tunes are woven together with great love and respect.
Great attention has been paid to the details. The accompanying musicians play their parts with great skill, the guitar; driving and rhythmic, the banjo; light and full of energy and rock solid percussion. In short, “Fiddlinda” is a delight .
- Deanna Smith Scotland, 2.20.14