Lena Ull­man and Ivor Ot­t­ley - ‘Skat­ing Across the Baltic’

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS - Donal Di­neen

Col­lab­o­ra­tions are like con­ver­sa­tions. Some end up be­ing more than the sum of their parts and climb higher and higher to places where nei­ther par­tic­i­pant in­tended go­ing, but feel all the bet­ter for hav­ing ended up there. It’s like a climb. Should we go any fur­ther? Go on then, up we go.

It’s not re­ally a col­lab­o­ra­tion, I think, un­less it elic­its some sort of change in ei­ther one of the mu­si­cians. It’s a meet­ing of minds. It has to con­vene some­where else. Some­where new.

I guess that’s es­sen­tially how they come about. One mu­si­cian knows the work of the other and has an in­cli­na­tion that they might be able to prompt some­thing new in their style which could lead to some­thing new hap­pen­ing be­tween them. Then that same ex­cite­ment could be the spark for fur­ther ex­plo­rations in pas­tures new. Life is just a dance.

It takes oth­ers to show us the way and the steps some­times.

It cer­tainly feels like that with Lena Ull­mann and Ivor Ot­t­ley’s sub­lime Skat­ing Across The Baltic. Even with the ti­tle there’s a feel­ing of some sort of jour­ney that could never be taken alone.

The warm tonal agree­ment be­tween the in­stru­ments is an ex­er­cise in to­geth­er­ness. There’s a range of moods but still ev­ery­thing fits. The man­ner in which Lena whis­pers her way gen­tly into the mix is char­ac­ter­is­tic of a ten­der­ness that de­fines this rare de­light of a record.

I love the way Lena dis­cov­ered her love of the banjo. Pure chance. As a 14-year-old from Stock­holm, she was vis­it­ing her sis­ter in Lon­don who was stay­ing with renowned banjo player Tom Pa­ley. Through him she heard Peggy Seeger play and her head was turned for good.

The West of Ire­land is now her home and the traces of her many en­coun­ters with dif­fer­ent folk styles make her play­ing re­mark­ably hard to de­fine.

The down­side of amaz­ing con­ver­sa­tions is they get lost I the ether.

Mu­si­cal col­lab­o­ra­tions leave im­por­tant traces in the thin air.

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