AMY HENDERSON – Soul For A Compass (own label AH2017CD)

Soul For A CompassThese days we need all the cheering up we can get and my first thought was that this record would do the job nicely. Amy Henderson is a graduate of the Plockton school, studying accordion under Blair Douglas, and is as much a teacher in community music projects as she is a performer. Soul For A Compass is her debut album.

She kicks off with Mary Chapin Carpenter’s ‘Why Walk When You Can Fly’ which she mixes with Bruce McGregor’s tune ‘Highlander’s Revenge’ and really rocks it with a two-step beat. Amy has a fondness for the music of the bayou which she sometimes brings into her playing. Jack Anglin’s old country hit ‘Make Up Your Mind’ is another song that she takes apart and I could listen to a whole album like this.

But Amy is a serious musician so we can’t be rocking all the time. There are two semi-traditional tune sets, ‘Lady Mary Ramsay’ and ‘Nina’, but Amy doesn’t give us the breakdown of the tunes within them. The former features co-producer Marc Clement on piano and although the arrangement of the first part is very traditional I get the feeling that the players know that they are on the edge of parodying the style. Amy has written three tunes, two of which are obviously cheap presents. ‘Kirsty & Kevin’ is a smooth romantic piece and ‘Linda & Kenny’s Waltz’ has a country feel – almost a hint of ‘Red River Valley’ with double-bass from Euan Burton who actually gets a solo.

Finally, there are two traditional songs. ‘Easy And Free’ could well have been the album title with a lovely relaxed vocal from Amy and ‘Bonnie Ship The Diamond’ cranks up the beat again. There’s a good mix of material here and I do like Amy’s voice. I just wish she’d form a Cajun band and be done with it.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the AMY HENDERSON – Soul For A Compass link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on 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:

‘Why Walk When You Can Fly/Highlander’s Revenge’:

Siobhan Miller – single, album and tour dates

Siobhan Miller

As a taster for the forthcoming album Strata, Siobhan Miller’s lovely, new single ‘One Too Many Mornings’ is released today.

As well as Siobhan’s wonderful vocals, the single features Aaron Jones and Kris Drever (guitar), Tom Gibbs (piano), Euan Burton (bass) and Jack Smedley (viola) This interpretation of Bob Dylan’s classic song also features vocals and drums, from Admiral Fallow frontman Louis Abbott.

A two-time winner of Scots Singer of the Year, Siobhan Miller is widely regarded as one of the foremost vocalists in Scotland. Daughter of folk musician Brian Miller and from a musical household her new album Strata sees her looking back to the songs she grew up around and that influenced her musical life. Refreshing these songs and recording them for the first time, she is joined by some of Scotland’s finest musicians including Kris Drever and Aidan O’Rourke, from Lau, and Phil Cunningham.

In support of the forthcoming album, (Due out in February, 2017) Siobhan will be touring the UK during February and March, preceded by a launch date at Celtic Connections.

Artist’s website:

Listen to the song:

GILLIAN FRAME – Pendulum (Cheery Groove CHEERY005)

PendulumGillian Frame was Scotland’s first Young Traditional Musician Of The Year. That was back in 2001 and it’s taken her the fifteen years since to release her first solo album. Of course she recorded three with the band she helped found, Back Of The Moon, played sessions for other bands and taught fiddle and the songs and tunes performed on Pendulum have been with her from those early days.

There are some fine musicians on the album – a core band of Mike Vass, Anna Massie and Euan Burton with guests Adam Holmes (who is making a name for himself with his own band) and Phil Hague. Despite this fine cast, what I like about this album is its essential directness and simplicity. The songs speak for themselves and the instrumental sets are not excuses for displays of ego.

The record opens with a vigour that initially surprised me. The song is ‘Rothes Colliery’, written by Gillian’s husband, Findlay Napier. It’s a straightforward song about the loss of a colliery and is sung in an appropriately straightforward manner – an excellent start. ‘Lovely Molly’ is a song of romantic trickery, played with a light touch and, like all the songs, sung without false emotion.

I’m in no way swayed by the fact that one of my all-time favourite Scottish songs, ‘Silver Tassie’, is included in the set with Holmes sharing lead vocals and that it’s followed immediately with ‘Fine Flooers In The Valley’ with ‘The Echo Mocks The Corncrake’ as a bonus. This is an excellent album.

Dai Jeffries

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

Mike Vass: new CD – In the Wake of Neil Gunn

Neil Gunn‘A journey of recovery and discovery’

Award-winning Scottish composer and fiddler Mike Vass is the master musician behind one of the most ambitious and intriguing instrumental releases of 2014.

A case of adversity triggering creativity, In the Wake of Neil Gunn is an ambitious music-maritime project, the seed of which was sown when keen sailor Vass was seriously ill in hospital last year. Named Composer of the Year in the 2012 Scots Trad Music Awards Vass’s last highly acclaimed album Decemberwell (2012) was another instrumental CD conjuring up both the chill and the warmth of the final month of the year.

A long-term member of renowned Scottish band Malinky, Mike has also performed in the Paul McKenna Band, in a duo with sister Ali, with Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes and in the feted super group Fiddle Rendezvous. Also building a career as a producer (he produced Scottish songstress Fiona Hunter’s debut album last year) the Nairn-born tunesmith is known for his classy compositions – he wrote and performed the soundtrack for Gavin Robinson’s Scottish BAFTA-winning Hart’s Desire animation and his jig Cavers of Kircudbright won the inaugural Neil Gow Composition Award and has been recorded by artists from Scotland, Ireland, France and USA.

But in 2013 he suffered a setback when he was diagnosed with Lyme’s disease. Whilst recuperating in hospital his father gave him Scottish writer Neil Gunn’s book Off in a Boat, describing a 1937 voyage of the spectacular west coast of Scotland. Fisherman’s son Gunn had given up his job as a civil servant, sold his house and bought a boat called The Thistle to embark on his three month long adventure around the Inner Hebrides.

Says Mike, who had been put in an induced coma: “I’d suffered a life threatening illness called Neuroborreliosis – late stage Lyme’s disease that affects the central nervous system. I found Gunn’s book utterly inspirational and immediately started planning my own version of the trip.”

In May this year Mike did just that, mirroring Gunn’s voyage closely and gathering endless inspiration for the new album, with Salmon Films recording the voyage and House of Lochar re-issuing the book. Mike and a small crew set off on his father’s 35’ sailing boat from Portree on the Isle of Syke voyaging to the Isle of Eigg, Arisaig, Mull, Iona, Oban, Kentallen, Fort William and back up the Caledonian Canal to Nairn..He revisited the same coastal communities as Gunn and performed a series of concerts with guest musicians, including one at Iona Abbey.

He says: “Making music on board and watching the stunning coastline of Scotland slip by from one of the most privileged viewpoints on Earth is something I will never forget.” Though intimately inspired by Gunn’s voyage and writing Mike said: “It is inescapably the story of my own reflections. It is a journey of recovery and discovery”.

The 10-track recording features samples of “found sound” recorded on the trip (from flapping flags to a diesel inboard) and live instruments captured later in the studio. Multi-instrumentalist Mike plays tenor guitar, fiddle, mandolin, dulcitone, melodica and percussion. Joining him on the album are some of Scotland’s foremost traditional musicians – Iain Hutchison on piano (who also co-produced the release with Vass); Jennifer Port on oboe and clarsach (Celtic harp); Hamish Napier on flute and whistle and Euan Burton on electric and double bass. Adding to the filmic sound is The Cairn String Quartet of Katie Rush and Catherine Robertson on violin, Annemarie McGahon on viola and Susan Applebe on cello.

Highly original, it is a suite of music that ebbs and flows, variously subtle and symphonic, seemingly having arrived fully formed with edge, atmosphere, nuances and even boat creaks that makes you feel you are taking the voyage too!

Says Mike: “I also used some quirky sounding objects from around the house – if you listen carefully you might hear a toilet seat lid, an office stapler and a paracetamol tub being used as a shaker!”

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

“A multi-instrumentalist and composer, Vass bends genres here. Is this contemporary folk music or a modern classical work? Yes.” – 4 * R2 Magazine

“Only a few years into what promises to be a glittering career, Mike Vass delivers a stunning collection of standout tunes.”Taplas

“Expansively flowing, often luminous music that runs with the tide” – The Scotsman

A live performance of ‘Settled In Clay’ from In The Wake Of Neil Gunn:

FIONA HUNTER – Fiona Hunter (Rusty Squash Horn Records RSH004CD)

Fiona Hunter-300x300I had a clever introduction about another young singer falling into good company to make her debut but, of course, as lead vocalist with Malinky for ten years, Fiona Hunter has put in the miles already.

However this is her solo debut and the company is indeed good. There’s former band-mate Mike Vass who also produced the record and wrote a couple of the tunes that are woven into the songs; Matheu Watson who is everyone’s favourite Scottish guitarist at the moment; Euan Watson on double bass and Gillian Frame as second vocalist. Fiona’s source material is the wider Scots tradition, including Roberts Tannahill and Burns, which we can extend to Ewan McVicar’s ‘Shift And Spin’, which sounds more traditional than some traditional songs, and Andy Hunter’s ‘Ye Hielan Chiels’. Hey, it’s forty years old now!

Fiona’s skill is that she is equally convincing when singing a piece of nonsense like ‘The Weary Pund O’ Tow’ as when delivering a big ballad such as ‘The Cruel Mother’ or ‘Young Emsley’ – a variant of the young sailor murdered by his girl-friend’s parents story. There’s a favourite of mine here, ‘The Bleacher Lass O’ Kelvinhaugh’, and another piece of silliness to finish with in the shape of ‘Jock Hawk’s Adventures In Glasgow’ complete with the most tuneful chorus of drunks you’ll ever hear bashing out ‘Barrett’s Privateers’. The band is restrained in accompaniment and provides Fiona a platform for her cello while having free rein to stretch out in the instrumental passages. This is destined to be another of my albums of the year.

Dai Jeffries

 *** Although Fiona Hunter is officially released on March 3rd you can buy an advance copy from her website now. ***

 Artist’s website:

SALT HOUSE: New album – Lay Your Dark Low

Salt HouseLabel:   Make Believe Records

Catalogue number:   MBR5CD

Distribution:   Proper Music Distribution & Highlander Distribution

Release Date: 11th November 2013

“Lay Your Dark Low” heralds the arrival of a major new musical force, from Scotland. Acoustic four-piece SALT HOUSE is the meeting of four distinct musical minds, on the Scottish scene, their highly current sound is earthy & deep-rooted, yet eagerly progressive, built from grassroots folk with contemporary influences. Continue reading SALT HOUSE: New album – Lay Your Dark Low