NUA are an exciting and vivacious trio of traditional musicians from Canada: fiddle player James M Law, guitarist Graeme McGillivray and bodhrán player Jacob McCauley. Their debut album is Bold, in more ways than one, it being a perfect metaphor for their driving, energetic repertoire. There is no traditional material here; the majority of the tunes are penned by Law and McGillivray, drawing heavily from the deep well of the tradition whilst simultaneously reinvigorating it.
It is predominantly Law’s fiddle that provides the melody, yet the other two players are by no means just bystanders. McCauley’s bodhrán is an ever-present, lithe and impressive heartbeat, whilst the occasional flat-picking of McGillivray’s guitar brings more than rhythm to the mix. Their judicious use of just three instruments, aided and abetted by some technical wizardry and an obvious abundance of talent, allows for a wide and varied palette of sound and texture.
Genre boundaries are effortlessly traversed on Bold, with the insouciant “Happy Cammy Drammy Birthday” and “Rich With Heart” portraying gypsy jazz undertones, and the trippy, trance-like electronica deployed in the album’s opening and closing tracks, bringing an other-worldly aura to these new compositions, nonetheless hinting at echoes from the past.
Slowing the pace down somewhat, with the waltz-time “Peter and Michelle’s” the guys also show that they can play with a considered elegance; similarly the subtle opening to “Flying CDs” builds a brooding drama, before unfolding in to their more usual sprightly pace.
From start to finish the music surges forth with an indomitable vibrancy, whipping round the room like a whirlwind: rhythmically compelling, and irrefutably entertaining. Bold is a thoroughly enjoyable album, that leaves you almost drooling at the thought of how much fun these guys must summon up in a live setting.