Not that he’s been away or anything but Alistair seems to be enjoying something of a renaissance, reinvigorating himself by looking to the next generation. First there was his stunning duo with Dan Walsh and now his new band, Alistair Anderson & Northlands, making their debut with this fine album. With him are Sophy Ball and Ian Stephenson, respectively fiddle player and guitarist with Andy May and flautist and singer Sarah Hayes of Admiral Fallow.
The record in firmly rooted in the north-east but for once there isn’t a single one of Alistair’s compositions but the credits include some of the greats of Northumbrian music: Billy Pigg, Will Atkinson and Willy Taylor amongst them. This is also, as far as I know, the only one of his albums to open with a song, a lovely light and spirited version of Jez Lowe’s ‘Taking On Men’. From there we move to the first instrumental set, a trio of ‘Paddy Whack/Coffee Bridge/Spirit Of Whiskey’, followed by the light and airy ‘Fiesta Waltz’ and my favourite set ‘Iain MacPhail’s Compliments To Chrissie Leatham/Copper Of Stannerton Heugh/One-Horned Sheep’. MaPhail’s tune is a corker, managing to sound old-fashioned in the manner of Scottish dance music while still being modern.
The second song is ‘The Snow It Melts The Soonest’. Sarah does a fine job aided by Iain’s arrangement and just about convinces me that I haven’t heard it far too many times before. The Will Atkinson set, ‘Redeside Hornpipe/Kyloe Burn’, is splendid with Alistair’s concertina honking away underneath the former while the latter gurgles like flowing water. Mike Tickell wrote the words of the semi-autobiographical ‘Last Shift’ with Iain composing the tune. Occasionally the band look further afield to find a tune like ‘Reel De Mattawa’ but mostly they stay close to home for such tunes as ‘Cutty’s Hornpipe’. ‘Geld Him, Lasses, Geld Him’ and ‘Apprentice Lads Of Alnwick’.
The final track is ‘I Drew My Ship Into A Harbour’, originally from the Northumbrian Minstrelsy, closing an album full of delightful moments. I must also mention Iain’s work on the technical side, recording and mastering the record. The balance and stereo separation are faultless rendering each instrument with crystal clarity.
Artists’ website: www.aanorthlands.com
The ‘Paddy Whack’ set – live: