Album Review: Mike Vass – Decemberwell

Decemberwell is the fifth studio release to emerge from the talented hands of Mike Vass.  The Scottish-born fiddle player and composer is highly regarded in the industry and has worked with a variety of stars including Corrina Hewat and Brian Finnegan; but now he’s back to astound the ears with his latest solo project.

Decemberwell is a joyous set of compositions that introduce a more traditional Celtic sound to a slightly contemporary influence, creating a wonderfully elevating music, which catches you off-guard with its whimsical tunes and fills you with a warming glow.  His music is gentle, often playful and unlike some other Celtic songsmiths he never allows his compositions to fall into the maudlin or sombre.  Instead it constantly evolves and excites throughout the album.  Swift, plucky songs such as Lights and Melter really stand out as progressively aurally pleasing songs that appeal to your inner sense of rhythm.  The album itself is almost entirely devoid of vocals and when they do appear they are more of a harmonic effect; less lyrics than a reverberating heartbeat for the music to live and breathe from.

What is especially remarkable about his album isn’t simply that Vass has composed all of these stunning tunes, but that he is solely responsible for performing them as well.  Opting to turn his talented hand to a variety of instruments that include guitars, citterns, pianos, glockenspiels, melodicas and a host of percussion instruments, it displays his incredible musical talent as he employs a Midas touch to his work.  Despite the healthy dose of Celtic spirit and modern twists to his music, there is also an irreplaceably classical, old-fashioned feeling emanating from his songs, such as Pane, which leaves the audience reeling as if in a world of black and white film.  With his mastery not quite completed by his astounding musical talents Vass organises each of his songs in such an exquisite manner that they interlock and form a musical story all of their own.

Vass has an inimitable and distinctive sound that rings clear throughout Decemberwell, ensnaring the listener and transporting them to some distant Scottish hill to watch the waves crash on the coast.  His compositions are fresh, exciting and utterly addictive, creating a thirst that can only be sated by the repeat button.

For more information on Mike and his works, please visit his website below:


Review by Joe Knipe