Skerryvore release Evo, their sixth studio album, on June 11th. You get an album to review and it’s a bit like sitting in the marquee at a festival – you’re sitting around or stretching your legs and waiting for the next band to come on stage, wondering what will turn up, even when you expect to know the music. The gentle muttering of conversation dies as the lights go down, the musician/band starts and you get slowly into the set. Sometimes, though, the stage lights blaze in white lights and the music hits you like the first punch in a fight. Evo is a bit like that. It opens with ‘The Exorcists’, which spends a minute slowly introducing the musical themes and then explodes into life, rousing you out of whatever you’d been thinking about before you played the CD. Nor does it let up, the themes repeated on different instruments at an increasing tempo. If this were a festival, people would be dancing at the front before this opening instrumental had finished.
The second track, ‘At The End of the Line’, is one of several written by Alec Dalglish that will simply have you singing – the long vowels of a lyric that could be both a great one for an audience to join in and also for a 2:00 a.m. drunken chorus on the walk home. By the end of the third track ‘Live Forever’, with its mix of pop-rock and a great hook, anyone in earshot will feel like dancing.
The CD moves on next to the fiddle of Craig Espie’s ‘Mile High’ and this lively album continues with pipes and fiddle bounding you along. ‘Hold On’ gives you chance to rest but is another cracking chorus song to join in with – the kind of song that you sing along with when you hear it for the first time and don’t know the lyrics. The cover of Gordon Duncan’s ‘Trip to Modera’ keeps the album close to Skerryvore’s roots, intricate pipe playing on a tune that keeps the tempo going. The video link below is to ‘Take My Hand’, another of Dalglish’s songs to join in with. Have a listen for yourself. ‘Borderline’ is a cover, more rock than Scottish traditional, blending perfectly both with the track before and the country-tinged ‘Waiting For The Sun’ which follows.
‘Soraidh Slan’ is the only slow track on the album, written by the band’s Martin Gillespie, “in memory of loved ones lost in 2017”. The album closes with another Gillespie track, ‘The Rise’, traditional Scottish playing fused with a modern rock sensibility.
And there you have the album – a fusion of Scottish traditional music with rock/pop sounds; an album that in places draws on the heritage of, say, The Killers as much it does The Isle of Tiree and the Highlands which are the home of Skerryvore’s musicians.
The eight piece band have twice won ‘Live Act of the Year’ in Scotland’s Traditional Music Awards. While Evo still feels like a studio album, you can hear why Skerryvore got the awards. On an entirely personal note, I’m having to drive round the ring road in Coventry for work for a few weeks – Evo has sufficient energy that it’s kept me cheerful (I dislike city driving) and had me playing steering wheel percussion in full accompaniment……my apologies to the drivers who saw me in their rear view mirror.
I saw Skerryvore at a festival a few years ago; if you’ve also seen and enjoyed any of their gigs, this album won’t disappoint.
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‘Take My Hand’ – official video: