JAMES DUNCAN MACKENZIE – Sròmos (own label JMMCD002)

SròmosJames Duncan Mackenzie is, as you know, piper and flautist with Breabach, one of the finest of the young Scottish bands. James is from the Isle of Lewis and there is a big story behind Sròmos, his second solo album: the history of the island over the last two centuries, its landscape, myths and characters. It’s a completely instrumental album, all self-composed with a core band of producer John Lowrie, Alan Nairn, Innes White and James Lindsay and two guest fiddlers; Alasdair White and Jack Smedley. James provides brief but very informative notes that make me want to seek out a book on the history of Lewis.

The opening title track starts with echoey notes on Lowrie’s Rhodes piano and you might think that you’re in for something very modern but James’ flute immediately takes up a very traditional sounding tune. The music builds almost like a ceilidh band before the tune fades back to the Rhodes and leads gently into the linked piece, ‘The Lazy Beds Of Rias’. Sròmos was a settlement cleared in the 19th century to make way for deer. It’s a common story across the Highlands, I know, but it’s made more poignant by the fact that the ruins can still be seen. Lazy beds are are version of ridge and furrow cultivation and their remains can be seen too. And now this is beginning to sound like a history lesson.

James’ pipes are first heard in the middle of ‘The Garron/The Plough On The Cross-Beam’ but he returns to the flute for the absolutely delightful ‘Stornoway Waltz’ with the melody played in double time over a steady but unobtrusive dance beat. ‘Land Raiders’ is another great story opening with flute over White’s acoustic guitar. The intensity builds as the pipes take over for the angry second and third sections.’Walk Home’ concerns the wreck of a troop-ship in 1919 while the up-tempo ‘Langavat’ describes two notable features of the Lewis landscape and there’s more history to take us the close.

Sròmos is an absolutely delightful album; a soundtrack for a visit to the Isle of Lewis should you ever get to cross the Minch.

Dai Jeffries

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

James and his band live:

Breabach piper James Duncan Mackenzie announces new solo album

James Duncan Mackenzie

Breabach piper and flautist, James Duncan Mackenzie, from the Isle of Lewis, launches his second solo album, Sròmos, a collection of newly composed melodies.

The album is named after an abandoned settlement on the banks of Loch Seaforth on Lewis, which was one of many townships cleared in the 19th century to prioritise land for sheep farming and deer forest. Sròmos consists entirely of self-penned melodies, led by wooden flutes and Highland pipes, with accompaniment from an array of acoustic and electric instruments.

James, who is a member of award-winning folk group, Breabach, is a leading exponent of the highland bagpipe and wooden flute in Scotland and as a tune writer, although his compositions are firmly rooted within the traditional idiom, they are equally at home with modern backing.

Mackenzie invited some of Scotland’s finest traditional and jazz musicians to join him on this album and you can expect James’ typical melodic flair and instrumental prowess coupled with grooves, electric instrumentation and multi-layered textures.

Mackenzie and his band will give their debut performance of Sròmos at Celtic Connections Festival on the 26th January at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Also on the bill is the Finlay Macdonald Band and Estonia’s Torupilli Jussi Trio.

Mackenzie said: “I’m delighted to be releasing my second solo album, Sròmos, five years after my debut album. I’ve been writing tunes for this album over the last couple of years and have gained inspiration from the landscape and history of Sròmos; a place that was once a thriving community of people who worked and lived off the land.

“I worked closely alongside co-producer John Lowrie (Adam Holmes and the Embers/Blue Rose Code) and together we’ve drawn on a wide range of influences and created a sound that I’m extremely proud of. It was a pleasure to be joined in the studio by some great friends and fantastic musicians who were invaluable in helping me bring my tunes to life.”

Tickets for the Celtic Connections concert are available from the Box Office and https://www.celticconnections.com.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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: http://www.jamesduncanmackenzie.com/

BREABACH – Astar (Breabach BRE004CD)

BREABACH AstarWith most albums it’s good to have the sleeve notes to hand when listening. With Breabach’s sixth outing an atlas is just as important. Astar means distance or journey in Gaelic and the musical ideas are drawn from all round the world.

The album opens with ‘The Midnight Sun’ written by piper James Duncan Mackenzie and inspired by a visit he paid to Tromso to run a marathon on midsummers day when the sun never actually sets. It begins with an oddly oriental sound, presumably an attempt to imitate the sound of a kantele. That is followed by a set of three compositions inspired by the rhythms of the Haka. The parts of ‘Muriwai’ are written by Calum MacCrimmon, Scott Morrison and Mackenzie.

There is brief return to Scotland with Dick Gaughan’s ‘Outlaws And Dreamers’ before we’re off to Scandinavia again with ‘Farsund’, the title track of the medley being composed by Megan Henderson. The third part of the medley is the first traditional tune on the album, ‘Wee Totum Fog’, which itself has an interesting history. ‘Mo Thruaighe Leir Thu ‘Ille Bhuidhe’ gives Megan her first lead vocal of the collection and then we’re off again, this time to Australia. ‘The White Sands Of Jervis Bay’ begins with a ceremonial song from the Aborigine tradition called ‘Guka Manikay’ while MacCrimmon and Mackenzie composed the title piece. It’s interesting to note that no-one seems to have come up with a more politically correct term for the original inhabitants of Australia.

‘Les Pieds Joyeaux’ is inspired by the Quebeçois tradition even though the tunes themselves are Scottish – Le Vent Du Nord join Breabach on vocals for this one. Then there is a visit to the Hebrides for a waulking song and a tune inspired by the waulking rhythm. It would be appropriate to stay in Scotland now but Ewan Robertson’s ‘Ribbon Of Fire’ is a song inspired by the band’s tour of the antipodes and ‘The Last March’ takes us to Cape Breton.

Astar is an album full of musical imagery and imagination – a melting pot of ideas that is varied and satisfying. This could be Beabach’s best.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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.

Artists’ website: http://breabach.com/

Breabach live on their 2015 Highland Blast tour:

Breabach: New Album – Ùrlar

urlarFINALAfter the critically acclaimed “BANN” comes the wonderful Ùrlar, the fourth instalment from current “Scottish Trad Music Award’s Folk Band of the Year”, BREABACH.

In June of 2013 the band toured Scotland and visited each of their 5 hometowns for a very special night of music. During the visits, the band was able to meet with local tradition bearers, friends and family to source songs and melodies for this release. Ùrlar is centred firmly around community and is undoubtedly the bands most diverse undertaking which has gained further inspiration and direction under the production of multi-instrumentalist and award-winning singer Kris Drever (Lau).

As their “hometown” tour inspired this album, the combination of both, has, in turn, inspired Breabach to undertake a full UK tour, during October/November. See our Tour News section for dates and details.

BREABACH harbours the multiple talents of: Calum Maccrimmon, Ewan Robertson, James Duncan Mackenzie, Megan Henderson and James Lindsay.

Enjoy the album and, hopefully, see you on the tour.

Label – Breabach Records BRE003CD

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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.

Distribution- Proper Distribution & Highlander Distribution

Artist’s weblink: www.breabach.com

BREABACH – Bann (Breabach Records BRE002CD)

This album reminds me of the first time I encountered The Tannahill Weavers in 1978 having just recruited the wild excesses of piper Alan MacLeod in a musty upstairs room at a pub in Hampstead. The reason I mention this is that at the time the pipes not only fascinated but excited me in much the same way it does on this recording by Breabach. If you haven’t heard the pipes at full throttle in a ‘folk band’ context then I suggest you purchase a copy of this recording at the earliest opportunity! The component parts of the band are; James Lindsay (double bass), Calum MacCrimmon (bagpipes), Ewan Robertson (guitar) and new members James Duncan MacKenzie (bagpipes) and Megan Henderson (fiddle). Everyone lends a hand providing vocals showcased on the track “Scotland’s Winter” although personally I must admit I’m not really sure about the addition of the piobaireachd that follows the song preferring to opt for the “Radio Edit” that finishes the album. Having said that, there’s much to applaud here with thoughtful arrangements particularly on the ensemble instrumental set pieces including a wistful “Farley Bridge” that demonstrates the band’s artful use of subtlety providing as much enjoyment as the more fiery up-tempo numbers.

PETE FYFE

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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.

See the artist Web link for current tour dates: www.breabach.com