DOLPHIN BOY – The Highland Swing (Skye Records SCRCX005)

The Highland SwingThere is story behind this album although I’m not sure I fully understand it. Once upon a time DJ Andy Dolphin, aka Dolphin Boy, was producing what he called “sample-heavy, bootleg-style music”. Late last year he and former Peatbog Faerie Iain Copeland, drummer with techno-folk fusion band Sketch, discussed the idea of producing an album of remixes; Copeland sent Dolphin the tapes of Highland Time and Shed Life and thus was The Highland Swing born.

Sketch mixed club beats with traditional musical forms so you might wonder what Dolphin Boy could do with their music. You would be surprised. The beats are perhaps emphasised but the music remains – mostly, anyway. Most of the music is written by Copeland and Andy Levy with tunes by such distinguished composers as Aidan Burke, Charlie Maclennan and Gordon Duncan. There are some fine musicians who were members of or guested with Sketch – Neil Ewart, Angus Binnie, Ross Ainslie and Ali Levack – and their contributions are highlighted but over all this Dolphin Boy adds his samples.

There is an enormous amount of tongue-in-cheek humour here. The opening track ‘Too Many Fiddles’ should tell you that without the two voices repeating “too many fiddles” over and over again. It’s taken out of context, of course but what the hell. ‘He’s A Piper’ repeats the word bagpipes in similar fashion and ‘Ghetto Pipe’ has people asking Dolphin questions about the pipes, to which the answer is always “I Don’t Know”. The vocal on ‘Kicks’ is mostly a list of perversions (some of which I’ve never heard of) that does go on a bit. I’ll leave you to discover the other delights for yourselves.

This is a strange record but I liked Sketch’s second album, Highland Life, and slowly The Highland Swing grew on me but, being rather too old for the disco, I’m not sure when I’d play it.

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.

Artist’s website: http://djdolphinboy.co.uk/

Needless to say there isn’t video of any of this!

Hamish Napier announces new album, The Railway

Hamish Napier

The Railway is the much-anticipated new album from Scottish musician Hamish Napier. The follow-up to Hamish Napier’s critically-acclaimed debut solo album The River, Hamish’s newest album will be released on Friday 3rd August.

Returning to his hometown of Grantown-on-Spey, Napier’s collection of new compositions and songs were specially commissioned by the new Grantown East: Highland Heritage & Cultural Centre – the formerly derelict Grantown East railway station that is been lovingly restored as a cultural centre and is set to open on 2nd November 2018.

In 2016, the new owners approached Hamish, as one of Scotland’s finest traditional wooden flute players, to capture the sounds, atmosphere and culture surrounding the old Speyside Line.

In the course of his research for the new album, Hamish conducted interviews with railwaymen closely connected with the Great North of Scotland Railway, including Jimmy Gray (93, a driver from Aviemore), Jocky Hay (94, a driver from Inverness) and James Telfer (94, the last signalman at Grantown-on-Spey East Station). Many of the tunes and songs on The Railway have been inspired by the great stories these men have to tell about their working lives.

The album showcases a stellar line-up of Scottish musicians including Ross Ainslie, Patsy Reid, Ewan Robertson, James Lindsay and Fraser Stone. The Railway also features two songs written for the project by Hamish’s brother Findlay Napier, and cameos from the Strathspey Railway’s whistles, wheels and brakes.

A few words from Hamish on his new album:

“When I performed my debut album in Grantown during the summer of 2016, the new owners of the Grantown East: Highland Heritage and Cultural Centre approached me and asked if I would compose a soundtrack for this fantastic new venture – I was so honoured to be asked!

“‘The Old Railway Station’ as I called it when I was wee, was just over the river from my house. It was haunted and as a dare my brothers, pals and I – including Fraser Stone, the drummer on this album – would sometimes sneak into the forbidden derelict buildings. Over two decades later, with the ruin carefully restored as an important local monument and centre, the ghosts of the railway people are given a platform to tell the world their story.

“This album is dedicated to the railwaymen and women who I spoke to during my research – the inspiration for so much of the material on this album has come from them and the stories they shared with me about their working lives.

“I am so honoured and proud to be given the opportunity to help bring new life to the heritage of my local area with this album. I hope that the listener feels that the music, lyrics, titles and tales capture the atmosphere and sounds of the lost railways of the North and the people that were closely connected with them.”

Hamish Napier is originally from Strathspey in the Scottish Highlands. For over a decade he has been an integral part of Glasgow’s vibrant folk music scene, whilst also touring in Europe and North America.

Hamish’s Celtic Connections’ New Voices commission The River received 4 and 5-star reviews in four national publications, and was released as a highly-regarded debut solo album, named ‘Album of the Week’ on four BBC folk radio shows in Scotland, Shetland, Lancashire and Ulster.

Hamish and his band will present a live performance of The Railway as part of Piping Live Festival in Glasgow on August 17th & 18th, they will also do be performing a live set for BBC Radio Scotland’s Travelling Folk special from the Edinburgh Festival on Sunday 5th August before going on to open the new Grantown East: Highland Heritage & Cultural Centre on Friday 2nd November.

Napier is part of the bold traditional duo Nae Plans with fiddler Adam Sutherland and also performs regularly with Duncan Chisholm, The Jarlath Henderson Band and Ross Ainslie.

He has recorded on over forty folk albums to date, recording with leading Scottish musicians such as Karen Matheson, Donald Shaw, Mike Vass and Eddi Reader.

Over the last decade Hamish has been shortlisted for twelve MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards, including Composer of the Year, Album of the Year and Tutor of the Year.

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: www.hamishnapier.com

‘1000 Horsepower’ – may contain language:

Read Dai Jeffries’ review of Hamish’s debut solo album here: https://folking.com/hamish-napier-the-river-strathspey-records-srcd001/

ROSS & ALI – Symbiosis II (Symbiosis Records, SYMCD001)

Symbiosis IIIt was only in December that Ross Ainslie’s fantastic solo album, Sanctuary, was released, and he is back again already, this time with Ali Hutton in a very welcome second celebration of their long-standing partnership. Symbiosis II (despite sounding like the title of a particularly difficult contemporary art piece) is a logical successor to their previous album, Symbiosis, and – appropriately – clear lines of connection join the two.

Symbiosis II is dedicated to Hutton’s grandad, who is also the subject of the first tune of the set entitled ‘Grandad’s’. This reflective piece makes a worthy companion, a mirror, to the delicate music box he previously created for his grandma, on the first album’s ‘Grans’.

As with the first album, titles are thematic one-word embodiments of the tunes that lie within (and an apostrophe pedant’s heaven!). The only non-original work on the album is ‘Goretree’, a tender Tommy Peoples cover. A number of the tunes have been specifically commissioned, and are credited accordingly. Whether composed by Ainslie or Hutton, the blending of the individual tunes into a set is never less than sublimely skilful, there’s no sudden lurch, no visible join, it all flows immaculately.

Despite these echoes of the first album, Symbiosis II pushes off into new territory, playing with notional boundaries of traditional music. It’s also definitely more of a “studio” album, given the addition of sound effects and synthesisers. Storm effects on ‘Mick’s’ give way to fast, fierce piping over a dark synth undercurrent, for instance, whilst ‘Birds’ features a clever interplay of whistles and pipes to reinvent the birdsong audio of the intro.

There is some striking, often quite moody, percussion, such as on the terrific ‘Kings’ where it lends an immediacy and a specific modernity to the tune ‘Dine Like Kings’. In the second part, ‘King Of The Mountain’, Patsy Reid’s strings add a dream-like drone, quite unlike the more tense, pulsating backdrop they provide on ‘Mink’. Andrea Gobbi’s thoughtful mixing ensures that nothing becomes overwhelming and a coherent balance is maintained throughout.

The duo’s core sound (Highland pipes, cittern, whistles, guitars and banjo) becomes more richly fleshed out as a result, and they wring a staggering variety of moods from whistles and pipes: lyrical and breathy, writhing and sinuous, beefy and muscular – and every shade in between.

Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton must surely be two of the most prolific young men around in Scottish music at the moment. Working in a dizzying variety of (often award-winning) projects their output never seems to falter. Symbiosis II is another superb addition to the catalogue.

Su O’Brien

Artist website: http://rossandali.co.uk/

Buy from: rossandali.bandcamp.com

Hogmanay in Edinburgh:

ROSS AINSLIE – Sanctuary (Great White Records, GWR005CD)

SanctuaryIf there’s a more intensely personal album release this year than Ross Ainslie’s third album, Sanctuary, it would be hard to find. It’s a conceptual piece, a celebration of five sober years – no mean feat in the musician’s world, where it’s always pub o’clock somewhere.

Ainslie’s well-known as a champion of the broader context of Scottish instruments and for his work with musicians of an international background, such as India Alba, amongst very many others. So, it’s no surprise that the musical influences here are equally wide-ranging, with its eastern palette of sounds embracing a distinctly Scottish heart.

He’s also keen on Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, apparently, and aimed to produce in ‘Sanctuary’ a similar kind of conceptual soundscape. So, don’t put it on shuffle. Listen to the complex, layered sounds as a continual flow, as intended, and it will repay in spades.

The titles of the twelve tracks on the album (and surely this number is no coincidence?) indicate key milestones, signposts along a determined route, with the calming, beautiful opener ‘Inner Sanctuary’ perhaps the heart and soul of the album. A gently shushing shoreline is overlaid with a tender, swooping elegiac fiddle (a stunning performance by Greg Lawson throughout) with Ainslie managing to extract the inner Scot from the bamboo tones of the Indian bansuri.

Finding a personal retreat has been essential for Ainslie, and he’s found it in his music: his mastery of his instruments is simply outstanding. Whistles brightly dance in ‘Protect Yourself’ and ‘Cloud Surfing’, then are overlaid by frenetic piping in ‘Road To Recovery’, which races along over a choppy guitar and tabla zing. On ‘Surroundings’, his breathing just audible beneath the seamless phrasing of this complex theme, is a reminder of Ainslie’s skilled control – and not just of his flying fingers.

Each musician makes a vital contribution to the flow of the overall sound, each layer builds up into a cohesive whole. There are so many wonderful and talented musicians playing here, but Damien O’Kane’s fierce banjo deserves mention, as a perfect foil for the complex celtic knot of whistles on ‘Happy Place’ and the exuberant highland pipes of ‘Let The Wild Ones Roam’. Tabla player Zakir Hussain and Soumik Datta on sarod lend Indian overtones to the juddering, descending motif of ‘Home In Another Dimension’, a surprisingly rocky track coming after the delicate eastern influences of ‘Beautiful Mysteries’.

The final piece, ‘Escaping Gravity’ an atmospheric poem with a vaguely oriental feel, expresses the conscious choice of sobriety. Its final phrase “Escaping gravity in my inner sanctuary” loops us right back to the album’s beginning, and reminds us that this is a set of mantras to be repeated every day. It’s what “one day at a time” means.

This album’s genesis is as inspiring as its form is delightful. It has a maturity, mellowness and a sense of peace, but it’s also a testament to some real personal grit. Learning to be with yourself and accepting yourself, flaws and all, is no mean feat. Turning such a challenging experience into a warm, accessible piece of music is altogether another level of amazing.

Su O’Brien

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 website: www.rossainslie.com

Album sampler:

Ross Ainslie announces a remarkable third album

Ross Ainslie

Ross Ainslie is one of Scotland’s finest traditional musicians and composers, playing pipes, whistles and cittern. He is renowned for his highly acclaimed solo material, and as a skilled performer and prolific collaborator who performs regularly with bands Treacherous Orchestra (of which he is a founding member), Salsa Celtica, Dougie Maclean, Ali Hutton, Charlie Mckerron, Jarlath Henderson and India Alba.

This third album from Ross brings together a lot of his influences over the years playing in such bands as Salsa Celtica and India Alba. Ross has always been a fan of Mike Oldfield’s album Tubular Bells and this album is based on the same idea and designed to be listened to like a journey. The album plays continuously from start to finish and as a bonus extra for pre-release copies you will receive the album in one track (digital format) the way it should be.

Sanctuary is a term Ross likes to use when describing what music is for him, coming up to five years sober!! Ross has been through some big changes and found ways of coping with certain situations without alcohol.

“I’ve found that I’m spending a lot of time on my own these days, being a travelling musician a lot of the social time is centred around drinking so I found it hard to be around so I would retreat to my room a lot, at first it took some time to get used to my own company but as the years have gone on I’ve found it to be a very productive and creative space, if I’m having a particularly bad day music is always the thing that will pick me up so that’s why this album is called Sanctuary”.

‘Inner Sanctuary’ is a track heavily influenced by his travels to India, it features a debut performance on Bansuri from Ross. The musicians on this album were selected very carefully and are all very comfortable in many genres, this track shows Greg Lawson playing with an Indian style.

‘Home In Another Dimension’ features one of Ross’s favourite musicians in the world, the one and only Zakir Hussain on tabla and also British/Indian Sarod maestro Soumik Datta. This track demonstrates a different style in writing for Ross with a definite Eastern flavour. ‘Let The Wild Ones Roam’ is a straight ahead rocking set of reels with the guys in their natural habitat. Damien O’Kane adds some amazing banjo to this track.

All the music on the album is composed by Ross apart from ‘Surroundings’ which was composed by Ross and Jamie Maclean.

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://rossainslie.com/holding/

Here’s the album sampler:

Blue Rose Code (Ross Wilson) announces new album

Blue Rose Code

Blue Rose Code, aka acclaimed singer-songwriter Ross Wilson, releases The Water Of Leith, his first album for Navigator Records on October 27 on CD, download and album stream.

A nomad both geographically and musically, Ross writes from the heart eschewing any specific genre and the twelve new songs on The Water Of Leith, addressing themes of love, loss, travel, home, accepting the past and embracing the future, are painted with colours of folk, jazz, soul and pop; an eclecticism that has become a hallmark of Blue Rose Code and has seen him compared to John Martyn, Van Morrison and Tom Waits.

Underlining the sense of movement and place in Ross’s work and The Water Of Leith is rooted in his return to his Scottish homeland. There, he reconnected with the stellar musicians who were to become an integral part of the new album’s sound: multi award-winning singer Julie Fowlis, celebrated Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes, BBC Folk Award Winner, Ross Ainslie, 2017’s Scottish Jazz Awards’ instrumentalist of the year Konrad Wiszniewski, leading violinist Seonaid Aitken and three of Scotland’s finest jazz musicians; John Lowrie, Colin Steele and James Lindsay, to name just some of the contributors. Grammy-winning American singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman features on the opening track. Ross co-produced the album with Angus Lyon.

Blue Rose Code will tour extensively around the release of The Water Of Leith, including concerts at Edinburgh Queen’s Hall on November 3, London Bush Hall on November 14, Perth Concert Hall on November 20 and two nights at Harbour Arts in Irvine on November 24 and 25.

In the space of a few short years and the release of well-received albums North Ten, The Ballads Of Peckham Rye, and And Lo The Bird Is On The Wing, Blue Rose Code has built a growing reputation as a powerful writer and performer, gaining extensive radio play and the praise of key broadcasters including Edith Bowman, Mary Ann Kennedy, Bob Harris and also actor Ewan McGregor who made a cameo appearance on And Lo The Bird Is On The Wing after commenting: “My uncle Denis Lawson (star of Local Hero) gave me a copy of The Ballads Of Peckham Rye, it’s beautiful and I can’t stop listening to it.” Author Ian Rankin is also a fan and has written insightful sleeve notes for the new album.  The Water Of Leith marks another step forward for Ross: his first record in recovery following a personal history overcoming alcoholism and addiction.

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.bluerosecode.com/

‘Grateful’ – live at RTE: