I wonder if there will ever be a time when I can’t begin a review along the lines of ‘here’s another fine young band from Scotland’. It’s certainly not happening yet because, well, here’s another fine young band from Scotland, or Shetland to be precise. A Place In Time is the first album from Vair: Erik and Lewis Peterson, Jonny Polson and Ryan Couper, brother of Ross. I first listened to it in the car on a sunny day driving to somewhere or from somewhere without the benefit of sleeve notes and two things struck me. Firstly, I felt that I was listening to experienced musicians who had got together in the way that Scottish players do and secondly, I was impressed by the fluidity and lightness of touch in their music.
About the first I was wrong but in Shetland they start young so maybe not so far off. Their main melody instruments are mandolin and banjo which lend themselves to fast jaunty playing. Erik, Ryan and Lewie all play mandolin with Lewie also leading on banjo. Erik doubles on cajon while Ryan also plays guitar and Jonny is the dedicated guitarist. All four of them sing and, while there are only three songs, they provide atmospheric background vocals.
A Place In Time is topped and tailed with tunes from some of the greats. The opener, ‘Trip To Breckon’, has a traditional tune nicked from Tim Edey, one from Michael McGoldrick and another from Fred Morrison while the closing track, ‘Orkney Butcher’ borrows from Aidan O’Rourke and Phil Cunningham. Actually, my favourite instrumental track is ‘Guizin’ which gives the guitars a turn up front.
The first song is ‘Atween Da Wadders’ and it’s the one that reinforced my impression of experience. It’s written by Lewie and it’s about identity and the culture shock some islanders feel when they move away to the heady delights of the mainland. ‘Waterlillies’ is taken from a poem by Thomas Alexander Robertson, otherwise known as Vagaland, with a tune by Lewie. The singing is in English but heavily accented giving an impression of age. The final song is Warren Zevon’s ‘Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner’ which is probably the last thing you’d expect here.
I’m on my third play now and I’m still enjoying the record very much which tells you a lot.
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‘The Orkney Butcher’ sort of live: