PEATBOG FAERIES – Live@25 (Peatbog Records CDBOG008)

Live@25The Peatbog Faeries new album, Live@25 is only their second foray into live recording in their long career, the other being 2009’s Live. As the title indicates, this return to the live format is a celebration of the band’s quarter-century anniversary – an impressive longevity by any standards.

Recorded at the Hebridean Celtic Festival in Stornoway and at Much Marcle, Herefordshire, the album largely consists of tracks from their two most recent studio albums, Blackhouse and Dust.

It’s an album light on between-songs chatter, but long on music. A live recording can be a tricky beast to pull off. We are assured “All our tracks are one take” and we can hear the crowd’s evident enthusiasm. But, it’s almost as if they’ve had their volume turned down slightly, which can make a difference to a format that relies, at least in part, on the energy of the crowd to capture the gig atmosphere.

As with most live albums, the tracks are given a bit more heft and general welly than their studio album counterparts, but this doesn’t detract from the skill or intricacy of the musicianship.

‘The Ranch’ particularly rocks out, getting all down and dirty with a great big Hammond-organ-style splash in the second minute and a grinding bassline, while a tune like ‘Shifting Peat And Feet’ really showcases the complex interplay between the instruments and band members.

It’s the effortless, endlessly versatile marriage of traditional instruments with electronica and global influences that marks out the Faeries’ unique style and makes them such a crowd favourite on the festival circuit.

Club music lovers will find beats, loops and grooves aplenty from the soothing to the insanely scratchy. The boy-racer-at-traffic-lights “um-chick-um-chick” beat of ‘Strictly Sambuca’ here assumes a rattly, rusty-castanet quality before whooshing off somewhere rather more gently trippy. The already jangly, edgy ‘Spider’s’ acquires a wild Donna Summer-ish Hi-NRG disco thang (so sorry) before dallying with a bit of Krautrock rhythm.

‘Jakes On A Plane’ (their song titles are often hilariously awful puns – reason enough to love them!) slows the energy down to an ambient Celtic trance while ‘Marx Terrace’ has a spacey, spangly electro groove under the churn of fiddle and whistle. ‘The Naughty Step’ marries a deeply funky bassline with a skittish whistle, whereas the addition of a lyrical piano part on ‘Fishing At Orbost’ lends a surprisingly forceful gravitas to the band’s sound.

The last two band tracks come from the Stornoway recordings, with the complexity of ‘Folk Police’ followed by new work, ‘The Humours Of Ardnamurchan’ notable for featuring a vocal, a female vocal no less, albeit apparently pre-programmed and pushed down the mix a bit. So is this a one-off experiment or an interesting new departure in style? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Wrapping up the album, the unashamedly sentimental Callum Kennedy track ‘The Skyline Of Skye’ is as sweetly touching as it is incongruous: a tender tribute to the island landscape that helped form this extraordinary, genre-trashing, outward-looking band. Here’s to the next 25 years!

Su O’Brien

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‘Folk Police’ live:

The Peatbog Faeries announce a live album to celebrate twenty-five years

Peatbog Faeries

The Peatbog Faeries have a new album – Live@25. Given that this is a band that is so renowned for live performances, a live album is the appropriate way to celebrate 25 years in the business. The band was twice rewarded with “Best Live Act” at the Scottish Trad Awards and has been nominated for the ”Best Live Act” at the Radio 2 Folk Awards. In 2016 the Peatbogs received the Landmark Award from Hands Up for Trad (Scottish Trad Awards) for their contribution to Scottish Traditional music.

The dynamic intensity of their live performances is well known to festival goers all over the world. This album offers a superbly recorded and mastered version from two of their live gigs. It captures the diversity of the inspiration that goes into their compositions and the tightness of a unit that has honed their craft over the years. What a recording of a live performance like this gives you is a night when the individual musicians, each with the confidence and freedom to express themselves, are lifted to another level by the crowd. The last track on the album is a fresh treat. It’s the first live outing of a brand new track not available on any previous albums. The album was recorded over two nights in a barn in deepest Much Marcle, Herefordshire and the Hebridean Celtic Festival.

Artists’ website:

‘Strictly Sambucca’ – live in 2017: