There's a rare grace and beauty flowing through this third album by hammer dulcimer virtuoso Malcolm Dalglish and his long-time, multi-instrumentalist partner, Grey Larsen.
Their music -- an all-instrumental mix of sprightly American fiddle tunes, raucous Celtic reels and jigs, soft-spun and nearly orchestral originals -- is surprisingly delicate. Listening to "Air Born," a sweet 61/2-minute flight of multi-textured fancies, is like leafing through an interesting family's photo album: There's a feeling of expanse, travel, adventure and discovery.
"Springwater," a Dalglish solo, evokes a tuned tin roof being played by a sudden summer rain. "Morning," an early 19th- century shaped-note hymn, is transformed into a stately hymn for cathedrals of the mind.
Dalglish's impeccable hammer dulcimer work -- it sometimes sounds like a harp or harpsichord -- is the perfect foil for Larsen, who moves from wooden flute ("Stormy Night" is a lovely showcase) to whistle, flagolet, guitar, concertina, harmonium and fiddle. Listen to the twisting traditional twin fiddling with Kevin Burke on "Golden Apples" and the provincial simplicity of the Hardanger fiddle on the enchanting "La Valse Pour Les Petites Jeunes Filles."
Dalglish and Larsen recently spent some time in France and Belgium, so a base of Celtic and American dance tunes has expanded to include "Five Bour,ees," with their Renaissance-like percussive bottom. The softly pagan spirit of dance is resolved in such beautiful melodies as "La Bercuse de Muffe" and the swelling title piece. There are friends sitting in here, but it's Dalglish and Larsen who serve up succor for mind, heart and feet. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM DALGLISH-LARSEN BAND -- The Thunderhead (Flying Fish FF266). THE CONCERT DALGLISH-LARSEN BAND, Sunday at 3 at Takoma Park Presbyterian Church. Call 270-0222.