LORI WATSON – Yarrow Acoustic Sessions (Isle Music Scotland ISLE05CD)

Yarrow Acoustic SessionsIf the word you usually associate with the Scots is “dour” ‘I’m afraid this album may reinforce your prejudices. As I understand it Yarrow Acoustic Sessions is the prequel to a full album – working drawings if you will. Lori is supported by Duncan Lyall, who also produced the record, Steven Byrnes and Fiona Black and the accompaniments are, to say the least, spare, with Lori employing a lot of plucked violin.

For those with limited knowledge of Scottish geography, Yarrow in a region of the borders north-west of Keilder and not far from Flodden, hence the inclusion of ‘Flooers O The Forest’ in this set. Lori opens with ‘Yarrow (A Charm)’ based on a poem by Walter Elliot and built on a droning, almost discordant, harmonium by Lyall. Next comes ‘The Flytin O Life And Daith’ – words by Hamish Henderson and music by Alison McMorland – which is not exactly cheering. Then there’s ‘Fause, Fause’, a song I don’t particularly care for in English. Evan as an aficionado of traditional Scottish song, I’m finding this album hard going.

Taking it in isolation I would probably heap praise on ‘Dowie Dens O Yarrow’ although I’d be happier if Duncan Lyall were playing a real piano. Lowi sings mostly in Scots which, as Dick Gaughan would patiently explain, isn’t English with some unfamiliar words but a foreign language from which you can pick out a few words. Thus, ‘Flooers O The Forest’, a long version which I think uses the original 18th century words, is at times incomprehensible, particularly when Lyall is giving the keyboard a real work-out.

I like ‘What A Voice (Blackbird)’ which sounds more like a completed version as does the closing ‘October Song’ with some clever variations of both melody and rhythm and Lori harmonising with herself. If the final project sounds anything like these two tracks, I’ll be very happy.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.loriwatson.net

‘October Song’ – official video:

Lori Watson announces two new albums

Lori Watson

Scots Singer of the Year 2016-17, Lori Watson is a fiddle player, singer and composer. She has drawn on the rich tradition of the Scottish Borders throughout her artistic life, including experimental works and a PhD thesis and creative folio exploring innovation and contemporary traditional music practice. A folk musician with considerable pedigree, Lori is currently touring and recording with Boreas, Iain Morrison and several solo and collaborative projects including guesting with Kate Rusby in 2018 and she has six albums in circulation including two critically acclaimed records featuring her trio Rule Of Three. But this is Lori’s first significant song work and she is lettingus in on the process as well as the finished product.

Lori is touring Yarrow Acoustic Sessions in 2018 with Duncan Lyall on keys, harmonium and bass (Kate Rusby, Treacherous Orchestra) and Chas Mackenzie on guitar (Halton Quartet, Scott Matthews). Follow-up album Yarrow is expected Autumn 2018.

Yarrow Acoustic Sessions is the culmination of an evolving digital album –Watson’s first major song work. Growing up in the Scottish Borders, the Yarrow valley beside Selkirk has been an inspiring place for Lori and acknowledging that this unique and atmospheric area has inspired countless artists over the centuries, she has continued her own exploration of the area through song, music, folklore, history and poetry. This album is a thoughtful selection of songs brought together to convey a sense of Yarrow as Lori knows it. The songs are full of strong natural imagery and tales of our own imperfection: living and dying, growing and decaying, loving, betraying, regretting, accepting, and a kind of madness we just can’t shake.

In addition to vocals and fiddle from Watson, the album features sensitive playing from Duncan Lyall (keys, harmonium and double bass), Steven Byrnes (guitar and bass drum) and Fiona Black (accordion) as well as contributions from poets, writers and composers Hamish Henderson, Walter Elliot, Alison Rutherford, Jean Elliot, Lewis Spence, Alexander Anderson, Alison McMorland, Ed Miller and Robin Williamson. Yarrow Acoustic Sessions reflects Watson’s creative process towards a second, forthcoming, album (Yarrow) that carries these themes beyond conventional folk sounds (hinted at in ‘What A Voice (Blackbird)’.

Dark and brooding, windswept, contoured, joyful, turbulent, sparse, reflective: Yarrow is an exploration of human connections to nature and one another, through time, inspired by the Yarrow valley in the Scottish Borders.

“I’m interested in unfinished works and fragments, whether traditional or original. They’ve always been inspiring starting points for me. I’m creating and interpreting fragments; crafting something that expresses the connections between us and our environment spanning hundreds of years: and then it’s filtered by what inspires and resonates with me right now.”

“I’m very curious about nature and about our psychology; and how we connect, and make sense of, our inner and outer lives. I think this comes through in the music.”

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.loriwatson.net

‘Flooers O The Forest’:

Maeve Mackinnon – new album and spring tour

Maeve Mackinnon

Contemporary Gaelic Singer Maeve Mackinnon releases her third studio album in February, 2018. Strì is a collection of songs in Gaelic and English, based on the themes of work, exile and struggle, from a woman’s perspective.

Strì means to strive or struggle in Gaelic. My original idea was to revisit the songs I love, particularly Gaelic Waulking songs. Waulking songs are work songs traditionally sung by women in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. They were hardy, tough women and they sang of battles, tragedies, breakups and romance. I realised midway through recording that nearly all the songs are from a female perspective, and the messages within them are so current today on many levels”.

The album is produced by multiple award-winning producer and bassist Duncan Lyall (producer of Scots Trad Music Awards’ Album of the Year 2015 for Treacherous Orchestra’s Grind along with many others!).

Strì features guest contributions from musical luminaries such as Kathleen MacInnes, Martin O’Neill, Patsy Reid, Ali Hutton, Duncan Lyall, and Jarlath Henderson alongside longtime collaborators Ross Martin and Brian McAlpine.

“The stories, melodies and rhythms convey so much. Whether you speak Gaelic or not, I think people can hear the power of feeling in these songs”.

Strì is launched on Sunday 4 February at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall as part of  Celtic Connections 2018.

Artist’s website: https://www.maevemackinnon.com/

Tour Dates so far:

Friday 23 March: Rutherglen Town Hall

Saturday 24 March: Milnathort Town Hall, Kinross

Tuesday 3 April: Aros Centre, Isle of Skye

Fraser Shaw – posthumous tune book and CD

Fraser Shaw
The Islay Sessioners

Fraser Shaw was a wonderful piper, whistle player and composer from Glasgow who resided on the Isle of Islay. After his passing in May 2015, a group of friends and family started a Trust in his honour. The foremost aim of the Fraser Shaw Trust is to raise money for the relief of multiple sclerosis, particularly in Argyll, Scotland, through a series of projects and events celebrating Fraser and his music.

A few years before Fraser’s passing, he had it in mind to release a book of his own compositions, the proceeds of which would go towards the MS Care Centre in Lochilphead, Scotland. Unfortunately, due to his illness, this never came to fruition.

Over the last year and a half, the Trust have been working hard to bring this idea to life and release this much anticipated book, along with an album comprised of Fraser’s tunes. In November 2015 a group of musicians gathered on Islay, to play a special memorial concert at Fraser’s festival, The Islay Sessions, thus laying the groundwork for this album. In January 2016 at Celtic Connections this same group of musicians, “The Islay Sessioners”, as they called themselves, performed this music as part of Islay Night, a concert that both celebrated the music and culture of Islay, and the music of Fraser Shaw.

In September 2016, recording began for the album in Castlesound and Carrier Waves Studios. Many of the arrangements heard at Islay Night have been recorded, along with a few additional tracks. Playing on the album are; Adam Sutherland, Eilidh Shaw, Gráinne Brady, Lori Watson, Innes Watson, Angus MacKenzie, Calum MacCrimmon, Kevin O’Neill, John Somerville, Laura-Beth Salter, Jenn Butterworth, Ross Martin, Tina Jordan Rees, Duncan Lyall, with very special guests; Kathleen Graham, Mhairi Hall and Ross Couper.

The Fraser Shaw Trust is delighted to announce the release of the book and CD on Tuesday June 27th 2017, with a big launch on the Isle of Islay to mark the occasion. The event will take plce in Bruichladdich Hall, with a concert featuring the musicians on the album. A second launch in Glasgow is set for Monday August 7th in St Luke’s Church as part of Piping Live!

Hard copies of Fraser’s CD will be available exclusively at the pre-launch party which will take place in The Sparkle Horse, Glasgow on Tuesday May 16th. Tickets for launch concerts and pre-orders will be for sale online from May 16th through the website – www.FraserShawTrust.com.

Proceeds of the tunebook will go directly towards the MS Care Centre in Lochilphead. Proceeds of the album and further donations will be used for the advancement of education, arts and culture and for the relief of those living with multiple sclerosis in Scotland, particularly on the Isle of Islay.

Mànran’s Gary Innes announces new solo album and single

Gary Innes

Highland born accordionist and one of the founding members of Scottish award-winning celtic  supergroup,  Mànran, Gary Innes, is about to release his much-anticipated second solo album entitled Era.

Gary released his first solo album How’s The Craic back in 2005 and has since released multiple collaborative albums with Ewan Robertson (of Breabach fame), all-accordion band Box Club and also has three albums with his current band Mànran. However, after 12 years of working on other projects, he is now back with a full album of self-composed tunes and even some self-penned songs, performed by some of the very best musicians and singers in the Scottish music scene.  Having been a professional musician for over 15 years, Innes is no stranger to the world of traditional music and as the newly appointed BBC Radio Scotland presenter for the iconic music show, Take The Floor, Innes is becoming further integrated into the Scottish music scene.

When asked about the album title, Innes said, “I have called the album Era as I feel it’s the end of a substantial chapter, or indeed era in my life. Due to my  increasing musical commitments, I retired from my beloved sport of shinty in 2014 and for the same reason finished up with the Scottish Fire and Rescue service after 15 and a half years, in 2015. Last year saw the beginning of the new era with the birth of my first little niece Zara and now my second niece is on the way. I am also getting married this year so it feels like life is very much starting to move me in a different, very significant, direction and I wanted to not only recognise this but also to celebrate it”.

Era has Hamish Napier on Keys, Duncan Lyall on bass, Jarlath Henderson on Uilleann Pipes, Steve Byrnes on kit and fellow Mànran bandmate, Ewen Henderson on fiddle. Innes co-produced the album with guitar and piping sensation, Ali Hutton who also performed on the album.

The album weaves in and out of melodies and titles that clearly resonate with Innes and his highland home village of Spean Bridge. Era includes three self-penned songs which all carry very different stories, sung by Robert Robertson, Alec Dalglish and Siobhan Miller.

The first single ‘The Caman Man’ will be available to download from January 27th, 2017 and it is a song all about Scotland’s most indigenous sport, Shinty and Innes’ journey from the start to the end of his sporting career which involved him captaining the national team on many occasions and his local club, Fort William to Camanachd Cup success.

Artist’s website: http://www.garyinnes.com/

Gary Innes interview – warning: Gaelic is involved:

LOUISE BICHAN – Out Of My Own Light (Swanbister Records SWAN001CD)

Out Of My Own LightIf you’re the sort of person who reads the small print on CD covers, you’ll be familiar with the name of Louise Bichan. She is widely known as a photographer, particularly of Scottish artists but has been playing the fiddle for even longer. Out Of My Own Light is subtitled The Margaret S. Tait Project and is, I believe, her first solo album. Margaret Tait was Louise’s grandmother and both came from the Orkneys but Margaret’s uncle had emigrated to Canada and settled there. After the second world war Margaret was, in her own words, “restless and unhappy” and journeyed to Canada to meet her family.

Out Of My Own Light tells Margaret’s story in music and it’s a complicated one involving a recording for CBC radio in 1950 and the choice of two suitors. The record closes with a recently rediscovered but sadly scratchy and incomplete tape of that broadcast. The rest of the record is composed by Louise and performed alongside some of Scotland’s finest musicians: Mike Vass, Signy Jakobsdottir, Duncan Lyall, Su-a Lee and Jennifer Austin, whose piano makes a striking contribution to the album.

Although rooted in the tradition, Out Of My Own Light is something more. You might call it alt-folk or nu-folk but I prefer to think of it as modern classical with tracks titled for people and incidents in Margaret’s life. The man she chose to marry, Sydney Bichan, gets two pieces, ‘Sidney The Pilot’ and ‘Flying Farmer’ and ‘Swanbister’, the name of Louise’s label was also the home of Sydney’s family. Louise isn’t clear about this but I suspect that ‘Margaret’s Walk To The Pier’ and the cover photograph are of Swanbister.

This isn’t an album you’re going to get at first hearing but you’ll find expanded sleeve notes at http://www.outofmyownlight.com and in Louise’s blog.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s webside: www.louisebichan.co.uk

A behind-the-scenes look at Out Of My Own Light: