Sunday, May 18, 2014

Hanneke Cassel: Dot the Dragon's Eyes

Raised on the Oregon Coast, Hanneke Cassel (“hahn-uh-kah castle”) began playing violin at eight years-old, but a local fiddle competition inspired her to take up traditional fiddling. A few years later, at fourteen years old, she entered a Scottish fiddle contest, winning the national title. Years later, after numerous trips to Scotland, and studies with the great fiddlers Alasdair Fraser and Buddy MacMaster, she moved to Boston and enrolled at the Berklee College of Music. Coming to Berklee in the early days of their groundbreaking strings program, Hanneke has since been at the forefront of a national fiddling revival, helping define the instrument for a new generation.

1. Dot the Dragon's Eyes

2. Katrina McCoy's jig / Sierra Fiddle Circle's
3. The Captain
4. Natasha McCoy's Reel / Lianne MacLean's Revenge
5. Jig for Christina

6. Eliana Grace / Dancing with Bryce
7. The Marathon (For Boston)
8. Lissa and Corey / The Sunrise
9. The Important Thing Is / TIDGA
10. Religulous / Patience
11. Dianne's Waltz
12. The Lime Hill Strathspey / Banks of Spey /Lexy McAskill

As a fiddler, Hanneke’s sound is a blend of Scottish and Cape Breton traditions, as well as some early roots in Texas fiddling. But she also draws heavily on experiences working with street kids in Kenya (many of the songs were commissions for them), her 10+ trips to China (she lived and taught in Shanghai for a while), and her friends and relationships built around the scene in Boston.

On Dot the Dragon’s Eyes, Hanneke is joined by madcap cellist Rushad Eggleston (Sean Watkins, Crooked Still) fiddler/violist Jeremy Kittel (Abigail Washburn, Laura Veirs), cellist (and husband!) Mike Block (Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, Bobby McFerrin), and renowned New England guitarist Keith Murphy. The album also features vocals from Aoife O’Donovan, whose contribution to “Religulous,” lends a very effective, yet subtle, vocal texture. Hanneke doesn’t shy away from bringing hard subjects into her music as well: “The Marathon (For Boston),” is an energetic strathspey written on the night of the 2013 bombing. It conveys what Cassel refers to as “the shock and nervous restlessness” of that night. Many of the tunes on the album were written by Hanneke for the weddings of friends and family members. “I feel like the danceability of a tune is helpful to making it feel traditional,” she says. “I think most of my tunes have that.”

Hanneke Cassel dips into the deep well of inspiration that the fiddle has provided in her life. There’s a joyousness to the music here, bolstered by the accompaniment of a new generation of great roots musicians, but there’s also a lift in Hanneke’s bow, a sparkle in her eye, that speaks to how much this instrument has inspired her.

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