There’s more than one band called Nua, which is of course a Gaelic word for “new”. This particular Nua is a trio based out of Toronto, playing what is loosely Irish traditional music with a healthy dose of contemporary Canadian influences. James Law’s fiddle provides the lead, confident virtuoso playing all up the fingerboard. Graeme McGillivray and Jacob McCauley build supporting pillars on guitar and bodhrán, creating a sound which is full and varied, remarkably flexible for a trio. This is their debut CD, and the title is fully justified: Nua put their own stamp on the music, most of which is their own compositions, with a couple of choice morsels by Oliver Schroer, Dave Richardson and Michael Ferrie. The up–tempo sets are bold indeed, challenging melodies and rhythms ripped out at an impressive pace, without any loss of definition or detail. I’m reminded of the Tartan Amoebas, the same energy and freshness with a fiddle front line, but to achieve this level of impact with only three pairs of hands takes rare skill.
The fiddle is impressive in its own right. James handles jigs, reels, eastern rhythms and jazz riffs with aplomb. There are one or two slight tuning issues, probably due to the hasty recording process, but the fingerwork is impeccable and the powerful tone never wavers. It’s not all fast and furious: Peter and Michelle’s is a delightful romantic waltz by Law and McGillivray, and Martyn’s Yellow Teapot also shows the gentler side of Nua. The intricate backing arrangements are an essential ingredient of this powerful trio’s sound, and faster tracks such as The Draw or The Hijack make the most of the depth and dexterity brought by McGillivray and McCauley. Original instrumental music can be hard to judge, but Schroer’s Driving Song and Richardson’s MacArthur Road allow a comparison with other recordings. Based on this, I’d say Nua can hold their heads up in any company. Bold is a definite contender for my 2013 Top Ten list.