Listen: A Celtic fiddler captures a sweet jam with musical friends

Maura Shawn Scanlin (Courtesy Louise Bichan)
Maura Shawn Scanlin (Courtesy Louise Bichan)

This is an exclusive song premiere, part of WBUR's effort to highlight New England musicians.

Fond memories of a jam session in a Groton kitchen led to a new single from Boston fiddler Maura Shawn Scanlin. The session saw the faculty of Katie McNally’s annual Boston States fiddle camp — including Scanlin — play into the wee hours of the morning.

“It was a raging, super fun session, and there were three tunes that were part of that session, and I thought it’d be nice to have a recorded version of them,” said Scanlin.

The result is “The Seagull/Jerry's Pipe Jig/Bill Collins'” — a set of tunes that will also appear on Scanlin’s eponymous solo debut album, which will be out on May 5. Scanlin is a boundary-defying virtuoso whose busy schedule includes performances with the Celtic duo Rakish, famed Irish-American musician Seamus Egan, and the classical-folk Rasa String Quartet. For her first record released under her own name, Scanlin said she simply wanted to share with listeners what happens when she “gets to play music with my friends. The traditional music community is an inspiring community to be a part of.”

Scanlin is joined on the single by bagpiper Elias Alexander, accordionist Neil Pearlman, and guitarists Eamon Sefton and Conor Hearn (the other member of Rakish). The band’s instrumentation creates a layered sound not often heard in Celtic music.

“I love that sound because I think it creates a more rich bed of texture and harmony upon which the harmony can sit,” said Scanlin, whose debut was funded in part through a Club Passim Iguana Music Fund grant.

“It emulates that feeling of being in the center of musicians in a jam session, and just being surrounded on all sides by music. It’s an amazing feeling and I wanted to capture what it feels like to be side by side with another fiddle or sandwiched between two guitars.”

The track opens with “The Seagull,” which Scanlin described as having “maximum energy, which is what I wanted for the beginning of the record. It’s an amazing pipe tune, and it’s not that often that you hear the accordion, pipes and fiddle, all playing the melody together right at the start.”

“Jerry’s Pipe Jig” was one of many tunes written by Cape Breton fiddler Jerry Holland, who Scanlin had as her instructor as a young child attending a fiddle camp in Nova Scotia. “His tunes are simple and satisfying to play and catchy in a good way. They focus more on groove and rhythm than showy and fancy harmonics and melodies. They’re the essence of the traditional sound,” said Scanlin.


After Scotland and Cape Breton, the set’s musical journey ends in Ireland with “Bill Collins’.” The jig was named for an Irish musician who immigrated to America. His son Dan became a producer and label owner who was responsible for many important Irish music recordings.

“All of those traditions have really influenced my fiddle playing, and they’re just fun to play together,” said Scanlin.

Maura Shawn Scanlin's "The Seagull/Jerry's Pipe Jig/Bill Collins'" is out April 19, and her full-length album, "Maura Shawn Scanlin," is out May 5.

Note: The audio for WBUR's music premieres comes down after the track is released. You could still listen to the track via the streaming service embed above.

This article was originally published on April 18, 2023.


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Noah Schaffer Contributor
Noah Schaffer is a contributor to WBUR's arts and culture coverage.



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