Bold is the new debut album by Canadian group Nua whose members include Jacob McCauley on bodhrán, James Law on fiddle and Graeme McGillivray on guitar. Rooted in traditional Irish and Scottish music their music absorbs external influences from their varied backgrounds in Jazz and other world music. This debut is predominantly made up of self-compositions and the categorisation of many of the tracks is difficult due to the unique approach taken by the group. The result is modern and contemporary with tunes stretched to breaking point and then reconstructed in their search for new avenues of expression. With only one melody player in the group this presents challenges. Bodhrán and guitar have to work especially hard to provide an adequate balance and interest to what is being explored musically. Inventiveness abounds and the interwoven nature of some of the arrangements is impressively daring.
Tracks like The Draw for example are part jig and part reel but not in the way that we would know them. The arrangements are very involved and require significant bodhrán and guitar interplay to offset long interludes without fiddle. In fact for nearly one third of this track the fiddle takes a backseat. They shift time signatures mid tune and mix things up in new ways. On other tracks they add elements of jazz fiddle and guitar to close out proceedings or provide interludes in the arrangements. These elements come at you unexpectedly and are cleverly incorporated into the tracks. If you are going to be this inventive then why not show what can be achieved and this is exactly what Nua do. Fizzbuzz is another track that gets stretched. Basically a jig but incorporating a lot of syncopation, overlays and rhythms that ebb and flow until they reach a natural end. Throughout the album there are some great compositions like The Dark Road and Rich with Hart which they pair with the Dave Richardson composition MacArthur Road and the slower Martyn's Yellow Tea Pot. Nua are a unique group with their world influenced compositions and arrangements. Bold lives up to its name and is the Canadian equivalent of some of the more contemporary albums coming out of Ireland at the moment. They challenge you with an album that is creative, questioning, and inventive in equal proportions.