Kevin Parker- Festival Australia
I have been blessed with a couple of opportunities to see Scottish Fiddler Ryan Young on his 2024 Australian tour. First at the Woodford Folk Festival (Dec 23/Jan 24) where he made his Australian debut, and then a few weeks later at the Illawarra Folk Festival (Jan 24). Simply brilliant!
One of his gigs at the Illawarra made me cry from a combination of the pathos, mastery of the instrument and the sheer exuberance inherent in the music. Watching from a prime front row seat we were transported into the fairy realms as Young and his fiddle merged with the music in a magical ethereal moment of transcendence, indeed it seemed to me as if he was a visitor from the Eleven lands who had been granted permission to visit the human world to enliven us after a few tough years!
This is even more remarkable as while getting ready to record his 2023 released second album, aptly titled ‘Just a Second,’ the artist encountered a setback when he fell ill, which affected his left hand. This illness rendered him unable to play his cherished fiddle, and he had to undergo a process of relearning how to play. I am listening to this most finely crafted and evocative album as I write this piece grateful for Young’s recovery and resilience. I wish him Gods Speed and wellness going forward.
Ryan is being accompanied on guitar in Australia by Owen Sinclair, a talented multi-instrumentalist in his own right. At Woodford the two played well enough together but hadn’t quite discovered each other’s vibration, not unreasonable considering a 30-hour plane journey from minus 5 degrees in Scotland to 35 degrees in Woodford! However, several weeks on the road as part of the Small Halls Tour around NSW with the very fine Folk Singer with a punk poet heart, Alana Wilkinson sorted that out. By the time they got to the Illawarra in mid- January they were in-sync gelling with joy, no little challenge considering Young’s sudden key, pace, and unscripted song progression changes!
Ryan Young has been likened to a meteoric musical phenomenon; he certainly rejuvenates traditional Scottish tunes with his innovative flair. Globally lauded for his captivating fiddle renditions, Young’s performances are replete with innovative melodies, an exhilarating rhythmic propulsion, and a profound spectrum of dynamics and precision. His playing is not so much a reinterpretation of traditional Scottish tunes more of an evolution of the form.
Liz Carroll, from BBC World on 3, recounts her experience of Young’s performance at the 2022 Festival No Border in Brest as transcendent, likening it to an odyssey of emotion and excitement, with Young’s prowess enchantingly guiding the audience.
“A rare musical meteor periodically streaks across the sky, eclipsing all in its trajectory. Such is the case with the prodigious Scottish violinist Ryan Young, whose virtuosity and creative genius are unparalleled,” she proclaimed.
Young, is an alumnus of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and boasts an impressive academic pedigree with both first-class honours and a Masters degree. He is obviously a keen student of the traditional forms which he has amplified through his own zeitgeist into a rare thing indeed.
Young’s accompanist, Owen Sinclair, is a himself a versatile multi-instrumentalist renowned in Glasgow’s traditional music circles. He is a been a member of acclaimed ensembles like Tannara, Westward the Light, and Inyal, and is a respected instructor at the esteemed Glasgow Fiddle Workshop. Sinclair complemented and embellished Young’s fiddle with his own multifaceted musicality, flair and a good line in banter, his fear of Australia’s arachnids noted!