CHARLIE GREY AND JOSEPH PEACH – Air Iomall (Braw Sailin’ Records CD007BSR)

Air IomallLast August Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach set sail on the tall ship Wylde Swan to visit five uninhabited islands off the west coast of Scotland: the Shiant Isles, North Rona, the Flannan Isles, Sula Sgeir and St Kilda. The journey was filmed by Hamish Macleod, the result to be premiered in Glasgow on August 21st, but before then we have Air Iomall, the music inspired by the journey and a reliable atlas and history of western Scotland will be of assistance or, failing that, Wikipedia.

The opening track, ‘The Big Islands’, is a setting-out tune, starting slowly but picking up speed as the ship catches the wind. Big is a relative term but I think it refers to Harris and Lewis, passed as Wylde Swan heads north. Charlie’s fiddle melody supported by Joseph’s piano before he takes over on accordion. Their first destination is depicted in ‘Donald MacLeod, King Of North Rona’. Donald, the last resident of the island left for Lewis in 1844 and the island remains uninhabited although sheep are still run there.

‘Ducat, Marshall, And The Occasional’ is a lament for the disappearance of three keepers from the Flannan Isles lighthouse in 1900. No trace was ever found of the two permanent crew; James Ducat and Thomas Marshall nor of Donald McArthur (the Occasional or rotating crewman) although an investigation revealed some strange entries in the log. ‘Sula Sgeir’ might translate as Suleskerry but this is an up-tempo fiddle set with no hint of selkies. ‘The Cliffs Of Conachair’ finds the ship at St Kilda, uninhabited since 1930 and ‘The Wylde Swan’ is another jolly tune, presumably to celebrate their safe arrival.

I must say that I’ve enjoyed reading about the history of these tiny specks of land as I’ve listened to Air Iomall and I can tell that Charlie and Joseph were as much influenced by that history as by the landscapes. Finally we have the eighteen-minute ‘Live On St Kilda’, a concert set of the music performed, presumably, for the crew of the Wylde Swan and, no doubt, the seabirds for which the island is famous. Unique is an overused word but I think that in the case of this project, it is justified.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

The Air Iomall film is safely under wraps until its premiere but here’s some film of Charlie and Joseph on stage earlier last year:

Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach release new album and film

Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach

Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach make music on the piano and fiddle. They are Scottish folk musicians, creating music filled with spontaneity, sensitivity and freedom. Inspiration comes from their past and surroundings, feeding music that’s rooted in tradition, whilst stretching its possibilities through improvisation and imagination.

Following the release of their debut album Waves Rise From Quiet Water, the duo reached the finals of the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award. Notable performances include a live BBC Radio 2 broadcast from the Royal Albert Hall, Cambridge Folk Festival, Celtic Connections, and Festival Interceltique de Lorient, as well as making music for theatre in Findhorn Bay Festival’s original production The Buke Of The Howlat.

Outwith their duo, Charlie and Joe are members of Tannara, The Iona Fyfe Band, Westward the Light.

Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach release Air Iomall (pronounced ‘air im-al’ and Scottish Gaelic for “On the Edge”) on August 9, a suite of new music born from a journey to now uninhabited islands deep in the North Atlantic – some of Scotland’s most remote and remarkable places. The album will be available on all major streaming platforms, CD and vinyl.

Grey and Peach travelled aboard the Dutch tall ship Wylde Swan with filmmaker Hamish MacLeod, who documented the trip for the accompanying Air Iomall film, and wrote music inspired by the histories, people, and landscapes of these mysterious, wild locations.

The film follows the duo on this once in a lifetime experience, providing a visually stunning, sensitive insight into these under-documented and enigmatic landscapes. It culminates with a concert of their new music on St Kilda – the most remote part of the UK, on the 88th anniversary of the evacuation of its native population. That live performance is captured in its entirety on the album.

Pre-orders open on June 11:

Film trailer:

Air Iomall Trailer from Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach on Vimeo.