The fiddler was stroking a furious reel while the guitarist was strumming a frantic riff, kept in time by the drummer and bassist, who were providing a heavy funk bottom, with the bagpipe (!) playing the melody in double time. And then -- boom -- it all stopped for a deceptive half-beat like a car hitting a tree, and then -- wham! -- the song started again where it left off, except a wee bit louder and faster.
The effect was adrenalin-inducing, and Wolfstone did this trick at least a half-dozen times Thursday night at Jammin' Java. The Scottish quintet slammed the ancient traditions of the Highlands -- the music of the fiddle, the bagpipe, the whistles -- into the conventions of modern rock, as they have, off and on, since the early 1990s.
Longtime members Duncan Chisholm on fiddle, guitarist Stuart Eaglesham and piper Stevie Saint have re-formed after record label troubles and personnel changes and are now accompanied by a young rhythm section: drummer Alyn Cosker and bassist Ross Hamilton.
The thrilling Highland-influenced instrumentals -- particularly the swirling "Clueless" -- alternated with gorgeous balladry. Tenor Eaglesham was in fine singing form.
For a band that merges the ancient with the modern, a highlight was one of the quietest tunes, a duet for fiddle and guitar called "The Lady of Ardross," which Chisholm said they've revived after a decade of negligence. It's worth keeping in the repertoire.
-- Buzz McClain