IAIN THOMSON AND MARC DUFF – No Borders (own label IAT 003)

No BordersIain Thomson is a singer-songwriter brought up in Dumfries who works regularly as a duo with Marc Duff who plays bouzouki, pipes, piano and whistles here and also produced the album. In his other life Iain has been a sheep farmer on Mull, where he again lives, although we’re told that he’s planning a move to Sweden, obliquely referenced in ‘Fate Is Knocking At My Door’. Then he was a truck-driver and, most recently, a fencing contractor. One look at his photograph tells you that he’s a man who knows about hard physical work and many of his songs draw on his experiences. No Borders is his second CD.

The record opens with ‘All Our Stories’. It derives from a project that began when the school in Ulva on Mull closed and the local people were interviewed for an archive about their lives and experiences. Iain doesn’t go into detail about their stories but rather concentrates on the fragility of a community living on the country’s edge. A related story appears in ‘Glendale Martys’ which tells how the resistance to the clearances of crofters on Skye eventually led to the Crofters Holdings Act of 1886.

The second track is ‘The Winter Winds Blow’ in which Iain recalls the working life of a fencer – out in the open in all weathers – remembering the good and glossing over the bad. Perhaps we all do that. ‘Back To The Sheds’ recounts his life as a shearer, both on Mull and in the antipodes while ‘The City Sleeps’ tells a story from his trucking days when he found himself stranded in Glasgow’s red light district at 3.00 am – perhaps it’s better not to ask.

Raising his eyes to more distant horizons he writes about the refugee situation in the title track and the way that isolation and separation can be brought to an end by technology in ‘Reunion’. He ends with an old Gaelic poem, ‘An t’Eilean Àlainn’ which, in a way, takes us back to the beginning.

No Borders has a very traditional sound with Hannah Fisher, John Somerville and John Saich among the supporting players and even Gordon Maclean’s bass doesn’t really bring modernity crashing in. It’s an album of fine songs from Thomson and beautiful decoration from Duff.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.iainthomsonband.co.uk

‘The Long Road Home’ – live:

Iain Thomson announces new album with Marc Duff

Iain Thomson and Marc Duff

Iain Thomson along with long-time friend and musician Marc Duff will release a new album entitled No Borders.

No Borders includes eleven new self-penned songs and features multi-instrumentalist Marc Duff, who also produced the album, along with guest musicians Gordon Maclean (bass), John Somerville (accordion), John Saiche (bass) and Hannah Fisher (fiddle, backing vocals).

The album is a collection of songs that are both personal and topical but still very much rooted by experiences of life in rural Argyll. Iain is now in the process of emigrating to Sweden and starting a new life and a new language, a process that will surely inspire new songs for the future and perhaps another CD.

Title track ‘No Borders’ is about what drives folk to jump on a boat run by money driven people with no regard for human life. They have no idea what awaits them at the other side of the ocean but they feel it must be better and safer than what they are leaving behind. The dilemma that faces refugees today is also very similar to the plight of the people during the Highland clearances when they boarded the ships with few possessions to emigrate.

Other notable songs on the album include ‘The Glendale Martyrs’; much of the aforementioned Highland clearances took place without much resistance from the crofters. However, in Skye the crofters refused to pay rents and the people fought on many occasions with sticks and stones when the factors tried to administer force and arrest. The main leader of the rebellious crofters was John Macpherson of Glendale. The publicity created by this led to great support for the crofter’s cause and eventually led to the crofting act that gave crofters security of tenure.

‘Winter Winds Blow’ is inspired by Iain’s main income as a fencing contractor – a job that has taken him to some amazing places. This song tries to encapsulate the beautiful surrounding landscape and wildlife, the thoughts that go through the head when working a lot on your own and just the sheer physicality of the job in sometimes harsh conditions.

Iain was brought up in Dumfries and started learning the piano at age seven. By the age of 15 he moved on from the discipline of classical piano to take up the guitar and singing. He moved to the Isle of Mull in 1986 to run a large hill farm and became known as the “Singing Shepherd” after producing two successful tapes of self-penned songs. In 1996 he left Mull spending seven restless years driving trucks and playing in bars. Due to changing circumstances and an almost magnetic draw he returned to Mull and his rural roots and started a fencing and sheep shearing business. 2010 would see him release the album Field Of Dreams to critical acclaim, an album of twelve self-penned songs and tunes.

Marc Duff is known primarily for co-founding the notable Celtic band Capercaillie with whom he has toured extensively and made many successful recordings.

His time spent at the Guildhall School of Music has given him an eclectic taste in music and a distinct style of playing which has kept him in demand as a session musician and a teacher.

Since leaving Capercaillie in 1995 to pursue his own career, he has worked with many prominent artists, playing low D whistle, Bodhran, bouzouki and wind synthesizer and now with the uilleann pipes bringing a whole new dimension.

Marc has performed and recorded with an eclectic array of artists from many different musical genres including Def Shepherd, Fish, Iain Morrison, Dick Gaughan, Billy Bragg, Wolfstone and as a soloist with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra performing music for the BBC series A History of Scotland.

Notably Marc was nominated for Instrumentalist of the Year at the 2008 Scottish Trad Music Awards. As well as being a very accomplished musician Marc has proved to be a very talented producer.

Artists’ website: www.iainthomsonband.co.uk

‘The Winter Winds Blow’ – live:

Adrian Nation announces third solo album

Adrian Nation

The spring of 2014 saw the release of the third Adrian Nation album entitled Live At Crossroads which was recorded during his 2013 tour of the Netherlands. Toward the end of 2014 that album was picked up by Andy Donnelly of the CKUA Radio Network in Alberta, Canada and he immediately began playing tracks from the album on his hugely popular weekly show. Other presenters at the station were soon following suit and Adrian’s name quickly spread around the province. This led to the idea of putting together a tour of Alberta and such was the appetite for his music that November 2015 saw Adrian perform 17 shows in eighteen days from Edmonton down to Calgary, from Lloydminster on the Saskatchewan border across to Canmore and Jasper in the Rocky Mountains. The success of this tour led to bookings at major roots and folk music festivals in the summer of 2016 in both Alberta and British Columbia and Adrian will return again this autumn for a further five week tour.

With ongoing tours in the UK and Europe as well as featuring on SkyArts series Guitar Star, it has been a busy and fruitful few years since that last album but the songs for the next began to come through and in early 2017 Adrian headed out to Sardinia with Chris West, producer of his second studio album Fall Or Fly, to Lake Studio to begin work on a new record.

The result is Anarchy And Love. An album which is instantly recognizable as being Adrian Nation yet it also displays not necessarily a change of direction but certainly a divergence of styles. For the first time Adrian has written and recorded songs on electric guitar yet with his clearly unique acoustic style, resulting in a new dynamic and a fresh exciting flavour. Guests on the album include additional guitar from Joel Schwartz (Birds of Chicago) who Adrian met and performed with in Canada last summer, as he did with Gino Mirizio (Pavlo) who plays drums on four tracks of the album. There is also a strong Scottish ingredient evident by a cover of Runrig’s ‘Rocket To The Moon’, a song that speaks of the migration of pioneering Scots to Canada, as well as ‘The Benderloch Stone’, an original song written on the shores of the tiny west coast Scottish village. So it was fitting for this track that fiddle was to be provided by Hannah Fisher (Roddy Woomble, Idlewild, Dougie Maclean).

With contributions also from Jonathan Potts on fiddle and Brad Lang (Barbara Dickson, ABC) on bass, both of whom have performed on Adrian’s previous two studio albums, as well as producer Chris West providing some more bass and piano, Anarchy and Love is very much about a group of fine musicians coming around the main focus of a solo performer and doing so with sensitivity and creativity.

Anarchy And Love is a blend of both politically charged protest, rolling road songs, high energy instrumentals as well as a moving tribute to the life of his father who passed away just before the release of the previous album and as Adrian explains in the sleeve notes, some of these songs are “the songs he left in me”, for a long time a strong contender for the title of the album.

Artist’s website: www.adriannation.com

‘The Benderloch Stone’ – live: