Argyll Gathering – new Scottish festival debuts in August

Argyll Gathering is a new Scottish event celebrating the best of music, culture and the arts opening its doors August 19th – 20th 2017 in the stunning setting of Helensburgh. The event will showcase the best in traditional contemporary Scottish music, local food and drink and feature interactive workshops. Community is at the heart of the festival and its goal is to celebrate the best of what Scotland has to offer culturally; Argyll Gathering is not just a festival, but a platform for people to interact and form an artistic movement.

So far, artists confirmed are the former lead singer of one of Scotland’s most celebrated groups, Runrig‘s Donnie Munro, who will be performing live with a full band. The most famous bagpipe band in the world, Red Hot Chilli Pipers will be bringing their ground-breaking fusion of traditional Scottish music and rock/pop anthems, Scottish supergroup Treacherous Orchestra are the third of the festival’s headliners – their foot-stomping, Celtic rock performance is sure to blow spectators away.

The festival also boasts additional praised artists, Bwani Junction who will perform Graceland by Paul Simon, Elephant Sessions, Manran, Federation of the Disco Pimp, Jarlath Henderson Band, Blue Rose Code, Daimh, Fat-Suit, Pronto Mama and, finally Nae Plans (Adam Sutherland & Hamish Napier) will perform over both days with special guests and added surprises.

A community workshop tent, aimed at all ages will showcase music, art and the Gaelic language. There will be delicious food courtesy of Food From Argyll, sweet treats, a carefully selected beer and ale bar, an independent spirits bar and children’s entertainment will be on offer making the festival something for all the family to enjoy.

Having been born and raised in Helensburgh, Festival organiser James Windebank has seen the town evolve and change over 30 years.

“The one thing that I always wanted my hometown to have was a spectacular event that focussed on bringing people together to listen to great music, have a dram and really enjoy themselves as a community of people!”

Together with co-curator, Nick Lawrie, he and Windebank have independently worked on some of the largest cultural projects in the world and wanted to curate an event to bring out the best facets of that they have learnt working events over the years. Windebank goes on to say:

“We believe that an event such as this should enhance its home turf, and really bring something to the table. That could be a great music line up that speaks to its patrons, showcasing the gorgeous larder of Scotland, or exposing people to the rich creative culture that exists all around us.”

Helensburgh and its surroundings are renowned for their picturesque backdrop. The area is steeped in Scottish history, it has also offered events such as highland games and piping championships to carry on traditions.

Full details available from the festival website

GARY INNES – Era (own label GH101)

EraOh boy, do I like this CD? Yes, I do! Era is only the second ‘solo’ album released by Gary Innes who is part of the award-winning group, Mànran and it has such a variety of material that it grasps you from start to finish.

All of the tunes and songs are written by Gary, highlighting a superb talent. Strangely enough, I was not taken so much by the first track, ‘Yarra Wine Valley’. I liked it but it is my least favourite of the ten tracks on the CD. If you feel the same way then do not let it put you off listening to the rest if the tracks.

Track two, ‘The Road To Lochaber’ is beautiful. Great melody, great tempo and has a power build up throughout the track.

‘The Caman Man’ is a fabulous song written cleverly, affectionally but also humorously as a tribute to shinty the sport that Gary loves and represented Scotland in as captain, several times. I am not a Robert Robertson fan although the clarity of his vocal is a bonus, but possibly the humour is missed a bit. The players described as “wood swinging brothers” is brilliant! A great track and song that will surely be picked up by many singers.

Track four highlights Gary’s fabulous instrumental skills but track five is as good as it gets. ‘May Life Always Be Peachy’, a tune that Gary composed for his brother and his new wife to dance to as their wedding dance. “Peachy”, apparently is his brother’s name for his wife based on a specific part of her anatomy. I can imagine this tune being played as an anthem by massed pipe bands. It is beautiful.

The rest of the CD continues with such a variety of material that I could go on and write pages, but shan’t. However, track seven, ‘Zara’, is for his little niece and is sung by Siobhan Miller. It is a masterpiece of beauty and feeling, a credit to any songwriter.

The list of backing musicians is impressive and what I especially like about this CD is that Gary has not fallen into the trap that many musicians do when entering a recording studio with a group of musicians. No loud, heavy drumming, no offensive bagpiping, no bumping up the tempo. Gary has controlled the entire product and produced a CD of beautiful melodic music that will appeal beyond the limited audience of ‘Folk’!

I also like the fact that the songs are in English, written by somebody heavily involved in Gaeldom , so we can all understand what is being said.

The CD Era represents the passing of an era for Gary as he realises his life will now be dedicated to music. He no longer plays shinty or is part of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. Let’s hope this CD is part of a very successful era.

Fraser Bruce

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 GARY INNES – Era link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. 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.

ORDER – [CD]

Artist’s Website: www.garyinnes.com

‘The Caman Man’ (Warning: features Shinty):

Mànran’s Gary Innes announces new solo album and single

Gary Innes

Highland born accordionist and one of the founding members of Scottish award-winning celtic  supergroup,  Mànran, Gary Innes, is about to release his much-anticipated second solo album entitled Era.

Gary released his first solo album How’s The Craic back in 2005 and has since released multiple collaborative albums with Ewan Robertson (of Breabach fame), all-accordion band Box Club and also has three albums with his current band Mànran. However, after 12 years of working on other projects, he is now back with a full album of self-composed tunes and even some self-penned songs, performed by some of the very best musicians and singers in the Scottish music scene.  Having been a professional musician for over 15 years, Innes is no stranger to the world of traditional music and as the newly appointed BBC Radio Scotland presenter for the iconic music show, Take The Floor, Innes is becoming further integrated into the Scottish music scene.

When asked about the album title, Innes said, “I have called the album Era as I feel it’s the end of a substantial chapter, or indeed era in my life. Due to my  increasing musical commitments, I retired from my beloved sport of shinty in 2014 and for the same reason finished up with the Scottish Fire and Rescue service after 15 and a half years, in 2015. Last year saw the beginning of the new era with the birth of my first little niece Zara and now my second niece is on the way. I am also getting married this year so it feels like life is very much starting to move me in a different, very significant, direction and I wanted to not only recognise this but also to celebrate it”.

Era has Hamish Napier on Keys, Duncan Lyall on bass, Jarlath Henderson on Uilleann Pipes, Steve Byrnes on kit and fellow Mànran bandmate, Ewen Henderson on fiddle. Innes co-produced the album with guitar and piping sensation, Ali Hutton who also performed on the album.

The album weaves in and out of melodies and titles that clearly resonate with Innes and his highland home village of Spean Bridge. Era includes three self-penned songs which all carry very different stories, sung by Robert Robertson, Alec Dalglish and Siobhan Miller.

The first single ‘The Caman Man’ will be available to download from January 27th, 2017 and it is a song all about Scotland’s most indigenous sport, Shinty and Innes’ journey from the start to the end of his sporting career which involved him captaining the national team on many occasions and his local club, Fort William to Camanachd Cup success.

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

Gary Innes interview – warning: Gaelic is involved:

MÀNRAN – An Dà Là – The Two Days (Mànran Records MAN04)

An Dà LàIt is now so easy to create your own CD that most artistes of any calibre have at least one to boast of. Regretfully, this does not always produce a product of a suitable quality worthy of review. As such, I was delighted to receive An Dà Là the latest recording by Mànran. From the very first note of the guitar picking on track one, ‘Fiasco’, it was obvious that I was listening to a quality product. The depth and tone of the guitar created an immediate buzz, although a rather squeaky introduction of the pipes concerned me. It could have been edited. It didn’t really matter because the lengthy track was enthralling and enjoyable throughout.

Mànran are currently flying high, not only in Scotland, but at concerts and festivals throughout the world. Only a couple of days ago, I watched a TV documentary dedicated to the boys. It highlighted that this is a group of dedicated friends willing to each work hard and each accept their own responsibility in the organisation of their tours, promotion and musical arrangements.

If you have read any previous reviews which I have offered on new releases, then you will know that I do not analyse a CD track by track. A CD assessment, for me, is based on the overall product that I am listening to. There could well be a favourite track and then one that you don’t enjoy quite so much. I have never read a book that enthralled me page by page! This package is great. After the powerful impact of track one, I was concerned that following tracks might not be quite up to the same standard. No problem! There are twelve fabulous tracks = 1 fabulous album.

The arrangement and musical ability of the musicians cannot be questioned. Each track has within, a variability, which ensures the music being produced retains your attention. It is easy to imagine Mànran on stage whipping up an audience to fever pitch at a concert or festival.

I do have a concern and it is a concern that I have with many ‘young’ current folk bands. If you have a group of musicians working at a high level of ability, then it is essential that all members are at a similar level. This should also apply to the vocals. In the early days of folk a group would be formed around the singer, who was invariably the most prominent member in that group. Nowadays, the singer is often the “goalkeeper” in the group. Remember at school when picking your team, the last picked usually ended up playing in goals.

Mànran could do with beefing up their vocals. They are nicely and well sung but with such power on the instrumentation, they need to match it in the vocals. Whatever, a super album. Would I want it in my collection? Yes, I certainly would and so will every Mànran fan out there. It is excellent. My final assessment – Great album, go out and buy it.

Fraser Bruce

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 MÀNRAN link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. 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.

ORDER – [CD]

Artists’ website: http://manran.co.uk/

‘An Dà Là’ – official video:

Mànran return with new album – An Dà Là

An Dà Là

After three and half years’ near-constant touring, Mànran are back with a storming new album. The title, An Dà Là (The Two Days), comes from a Gaelic expression for great change and change is very much the central theme of the album. This exhibits itself in myriad forms ranging from an old Gaelic song on the changes wrought by the Highland Clearances through to the title track of the album: a bilingual attempt to deal with the precarious nature of today’s ever-changing world, including a call for compassion and humanity directed at President-Elect Donald Trump in his mother’s native language of Gaelic.

The title also reflects the changes the band has undergone over the years since Mànran’s last studio album and, musically, these changes are most evident in the increased power, intricacy and maturity of the instrumental tracks as well as the strength of the new voices featured in the songs.

In three years that have seen Mànran tour regularly throughout Scotland, the UK, mainland Europe and as far as the US, Australia and South Korea, it’s clear that the band haven’t been travelling around with their fingers in their ears and these worldwide influences can be heard in much of the new music. Indeed, much of the album was composed, rehearsed and gigged on the road before being recorded in Glasgow during rare moments of downtime. This “road-testing” method has undoubtedly resulted in Mànran’s strongest, most coherent and boldest album to date.

An Dà Là – The Two Days is due to be launched at a headline show in Glasgow’s legendary Barrowland Ballroom, on 20th January, as part of 2017’s Celtic Connections festival.

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 Mànran – An Dà Là link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. 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.

ORDER – [CD]

Artists’ website: http://manran.co.uk/

‘An Dà Là’ – the album’s title track and new single:

CALUM STEWART & LAUREN MacCOLL NEW ALBUM Wooden Flute and Fiddle

Calum Stewart (wooden flute) and Lauren MacColl (fiddle & viola) are two young musicians, at the top of their game. Calum, formerly of Manran, is at the forefront of Scottish flute playing, displaying exemplary technique and emotion in his playing.

Lauren, is regarded as one of the finest fiddlers of her geneation and has won “Instumentalist of the Year” at the Scottish Traditional Music Awards and BBC Young Folk Awards. She has also been leading her band The MacCollective since 2004.

Continue reading CALUM STEWART & LAUREN MacCOLL NEW ALBUM Wooden Flute and Fiddle