OK, home from work now, bit more time......
Well, I only viewed/listened to each clip twice. I do partly see/agree with what Ben means when he says they don't have a "trad" feel - it isn't "pure drop", for sure. But for me (let's discount the Telemann clip for now) the clips using trad material were very effective. I enjoyed the sounds they make. I like the precision of their articulation and the (musical, not visual - apart from some quite good instrument-playing close-up work, the pseudy visual aspect of these clips is pretty dreadful!) interplay between them, though the fiddler does have some apparent habits when accompanying (rather than tune playing) which I don't find entirely sympathetic - and he also does some IMO very successful stuff.
Norman's tone is really good in the flute clip (allowing for recording tech - the engineering is very good IMO, but doesn't seem to be obviously flattering - and no excessive reverb!
) - better than I've heard before. My previous view of him from limited exposure was that I wasn't smitten (hence had not chosen to explore him more) - clearly technically accomplished, but a bit insipid both tonally and interpretationally and not really getting an effective feel of trad material. Sure, this isn't a particularly trad approach, but it isn't insipid. They are very tight, which I always find impressive, even in genres or styles of music I don't like. I think they build up a good head of steam and drive the set along to an effective climax. The way it builds tension and intensity (not
the playing style) reminds a bit of how Martin Hayes builds through sets of reels. My one major criticism is that they perhaps end up going a bit too fast, and that goes for the Hacky Honey
clip on pipes too. Not that they can't technically sustain that pace, just it overcooks it for the music.
As for the fiddle(s), although as I said I don't necessarily like/approve of everything the fiddler does in backing mode, I do like the gutsy sounds he makes/the instruments make and how he contributes to the ensemble with Norman's flute/pipes. He is clearly very competent and is choosing
to use those instruments and to make those sounds - he could do otherwise. Whilst it may not be the kind of sound Ben chooses to make and likes, I don't think it is "bad" and I certainly don't find it annoying or distressing - as I sometimes find recordings/performances by (allegedly) "pure drop" players who for me really don't play at all well technically (even make horrible noises!), whatever the respect and reverence they may be held in as repositories/exponents of the tradition. Nor does the non-trad-ness of these clips irritate me in the way a good deal of explicitly "cross-over" stuff does.
Also, in the end I don't know enough about the Nova Scotian music which is Norman's native tradition to be able to say whether or not he is playing stylistically within its tradition. I do know he has a life-long involvement in and passion for it, and also for Scottish music in particular. I've heard (not much but) enough Cape Breton and French Canadian music to know that although they use much ITM and STM material, they play it in their own style, not as it would mostly be played by Irish or Scottish players. I know far less about the Scottish tradition and what might be the "right feel" for that than I do about Irish or Welsh music... Certainly these performances don't "feel" like any Irish style. The Telemann does not "feel" (or sound) much like any baroque HIP specialist would play it either (though clearly both players know their stuff about that idiom) - but I do think it is an effective and attractive non-HIP performance, just as one on a modern Bohm flute and modern violin could (just about conceivably) be.
So, maybe Ben and I are less far apart than he thinks, bar the final matter of taste and liking. I have some reservations about the clips/performances - they are not faultless either technically or subjective taste-wise, but on balance I enjoyed them and I do think they are superbly played. The players clearly achieved what they intended to achieve. If listeners don't like all or part of what performers present....... well, that's normal.