HAMISH NAPIER – The River (Strathspey Records SRCD001)

The RiverThe River in question is the Spey, beloved of fishermen and whisky drinkers the world over. Composer and multi-instrumentalist Hamish Napier was brought up on its banks and has, quite naturally, chosen it as the subject of his debut solo album.

You might expect something pretty and pastoral from this work and there is some of that but rivers are subject to fickle changes of mood and the Spey is no exception. It may wind placidly past the valley towns with their distilleries but it can roar as it fights the sea to disgorge into Moray Firth. Napier builds such contradictions into his music. The opening piece, ‘Mayfly’, begins as you would expect with dancing flute and whistle but without warning there comes a passage of boogie-woogie electric piano. I can only guess what this signifies – perhaps a trout rising to snap an unwary insect.

Later, ‘Floating’ opens with definite synthesised sounds and then you might remember that Hamish’s co-producer is electronica musician Andrea Gobbi which helps to explain this meeting of old and new. The Spey always was a working river and Hamish tells tales of the life cycle of the salmon, disasters, local legends and riverside characters in his music with sleeve notes that tell you more about the river than you thought it possible to know.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website: www.hamishnapier.com

‘Spey Cast’ live at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall: