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:

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.

ROSS AINSLIE – WIDE OPEN

Ross AinslieReleased on Great White Records GWR001CD

Distribution by Proper Music Distribution

Release date: 10th March, 2014

Nominated as “Musician of the Year” at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, 2013 and nominated, with Jarlath Henderson, in the “Best Duo” category for this year’s Folk Awards.

Ross is one half of the stellar duo, Ross Ainslie and Jarlath Henderson, as well as one of the most sought after musicians in the Scottish music scene today.

Performing with Salsa Celtica, Dougie Maclean and the Treacherous Orchestra, Ross has also appeared and collaborated with Zakir Hussain, Trilok Gurtu, Capercaillie, Mike McGoldrick, Flook and many more.

Wide Open is a snap shot of Ross’s influences and is a diverse collection of musical styles that have inspired him over the years.

The nine tracks feature his talents as master piper and whistle player as well as his skills on cittern and mandolin. Ross is joined by a wonderful line up of musicians: Ali Hutton on guitar, Duncan Lyall on bass, James Mackintosh on drums, Innes Watson on fiddle, John Somerville on accordion, Angus Lyon on keys and Gyan Singh on tabla.

From the Breton influenced ‘Clans’  to the energetic playing on  ‘Problem’ , the album illustrates a fusion of styles that have inspired Ross throughout his musical career. ‘Wood Suite’ is an expression of his musical journeys and fuses the instruments of cittern, whistles, accordion, bass, drums and tabla in an evocative and creative arrangement that takes creative input from his collaborations, in India, to his life in Scotland.

Dedicated to his teacher and mentor the late Gordon Duncan, Wide Open is a musical gathering of his experiences in a refreshing collection of tunes that debuts his creativity as a solo artist.

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