I was really looking forward to this, Skerryvore’s fourth album. Unfortunately their major selling-point of upfront Highland bagpipes that played a major part of the overall sound on their previous recording has been usurped by the more rustic charms of Daniel Gillespie’s accordion and Craig Espie’s fiddle. OK, so the fiddle and accordion were always part of the make-up but I’m not sure about them playing such a pivotal role. Cast your mind back to a time when The Bluebells and Proclaimers were king of the swingers, Skerryvore would have fit as snugly as a rawlplug round a screw right alongside them. With Barry Caulfield (bass), Fraser West (drums) and Alec Dalglish on vocals, guitars and mandolin and guest producer Alan Scobie on keyboards and percussion in general the sound is pleasant but for me at least rarely reaches the peaks of the band’s previous outing. If, however you’re looking for a ‘festival’ band then songs such as the opening track “Put Your Hands Up”, the Big Country sounding “Magic Numbers” or the goodtime Zydeco styled “The Last Time” could have you swaying hypnotically along with your mates in a sweaty marquee. I’m sorry I couldn’t have given this recording a more positive review but then again, perhaps next time?
Now, here’s a band that, although ‘folk’ based aren’t too worried to put a slightly commercial twist to their performance. Incorporating a bit of jazz and with the help of a (predominantly) strings based orchestra this is a seriously well produced recording. With the component parts of the band Nicolas Boulerice (hurdy-gurdy), Olivier Demers (fiddle), Simon Beaudry (guitar) and Rejean Brunet (accordion) and the addition of Tom Myron’s orchestral arrangements Le Vent Du Nord stray into territory previously explored by the likes of Shaun Davey and Bill Whelan. Not hoping to sound rude, this is the kind of grand statement I enjoy listening to (preferably armed with a decent set of headphones!). Hailing from Quebec and with the vocals sung in French you might think this would be a distraction to an anglophile like me but when the performance is presented with such passion the language barrier is soon forgotten. OK, so I might not understand a word of it but the driving determination of these musicians/singers has to be admired and when you’re given free reign to indulge (if that’s the right word?) this wildly expansive sound proves very impressive! There’s no getting away from it…if you thought you might not enjoy a recording you can’t understand lyrically…think again and you’ll find yourself invigorated and with a beaming smile on your face!