Breabach: New Album – Ùrlar

urlarFINALAfter the critically acclaimed “BANN” comes the wonderful Ùrlar, the fourth instalment from current “Scottish Trad Music Award’s Folk Band of the Year”, BREABACH.

In June of 2013 the band toured Scotland and visited each of their 5 hometowns for a very special night of music. During the visits, the band was able to meet with local tradition bearers, friends and family to source songs and melodies for this release. Ùrlar is centred firmly around community and is undoubtedly the bands most diverse undertaking which has gained further inspiration and direction under the production of multi-instrumentalist and award-winning singer Kris Drever (Lau).

As their “hometown” tour inspired this album, the combination of both, has, in turn, inspired Breabach to undertake a full UK tour, during October/November. See our Tour News section for dates and details.

BREABACH harbours the multiple talents of: Calum Maccrimmon, Ewan Robertson, James Duncan Mackenzie, Megan Henderson and James Lindsay.

Enjoy the album and, hopefully, see you on the tour.

Label – Breabach Records BRE003CD

Distribution- Proper Distribution & Highlander Distribution

Artist’s weblink: www.breabach.com

Folking at Cambridge Folk Festival 2013 – Day 3

wb3_300Those following this blog will know that it would not be complete without an early morning campsite folking shower report – although those on-site would have had a deluge of their own later in the day when KT “rain goddess” Tunstall took to the stage and opened the heavens – but more on that later. My first shower was at 5.00am, an hour earlier than the day before! Perhaps it was the excitement of the previous 2 days, or perhaps it was just the the showers but Cambridge was not awarding me much sleep.

Breabach danceAs I was finishing the day 2 blog We Banjo 3 took to the main stage, a quintet from Galway playing Irish, bluegrass and American old time music. From what I saw on the #CFF13 @CamFolkFest twitter feed they were definitely making many instant fans and got Saturday stage 1 off to a rousing start. Next up were the mighty Breabach, a tour de force in the Scottish music scene. They had a great array of weaponry on hand including: highland bagpipes, fiddle, guitar, double bass, mandolin, bazouki and even included a set dance by fiddle payer, Megan Henderson.

Saturday Cambs FF CrowdBoth SOC (Son of Clicker – the folking photographer) and I knew that getting to see everything today was going to be tough with all 3 stages in full swing. In fact panic set in and we ran around like headless chickens for a bit until coming to our senses and catching the end of the Festival Session, hosted by Battlefield Band and Feast of Fiddles academic legend Brian McNeil. This was a one off line-up featuring: The Chair, Frigg, The Rambling Boys of Pleasure, Radio 2 young folk award winners Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar, Martin Simpson, Le Vent du Nord and We Banjo 3 again.

Hop and a skip back to the Stage 1 to see Martin Simpson performing a guitar master class wrapped up in his usual exemplary solo set kind of way which included favourites like the you were never any good with money gem Prodigal Son and Jackie and Murphy, a story song of an epic true tale of bravery, donkeys and Gallipoli.

Thea Gilmore CFFManaged to then catch the end of the talented and velvet voiced Heidi Talbot on stage 2 as she left us all going up and down her music tree, Korrontzi from Northern Spain were next up and made you feel part of a Basque hill town knees up for a short while (it was great to see Thea Gilmore dancing along to them back stage). It wasn’t long until Thea took center stage with her full band line up which included producer, husband and multi-instrumentalist Nigel Stonier. Thea definitely showed off her folk credentials by giving us a faultless performance of Pity the Poor Immigrant. Thea then belted out the Radio 2 A listed song Start As We Mean To Go On, before ending with what for me was the highlight of the day, a perfect rendition to the stunning London with her little lad taking center stage on the fiddle. Sandy Denny who wrote the lyrics to this song is my folk heroine and Thea is equally addictive.

There was only one way to come down and that was to head over to the club tent and catch State Of The Union, aka Boo Hewerdine and Brooks Williams. In the grand tradition of ‘The Special Relationship’, State Of The Union combines the talents of America and England, producing an end result that delighted the club tent crowd with hook-laden songs, fiery and emotional guitar playing and soulful vocals. By this time I had a few jars of Ringwood’s finest Boon Doggle ale and was amusing myself by keeping the girls at the bar on their toes and coming up with different names for it. The firm favourite was Moon Poodle!

Fully Protected & The Moon PoodleThe Moon Poodle was listening as the heavens opened and the poodle piddled down on us as KT Tunstall hit the stage. A great set followed, my favourite being Other Side of the World or dark side of the poodle moon by the Black horse and a cherry tree, no that one actually came later… but don’t blame it on the Sunshine, don’t blame it on the moonlight, blame it on the Boggle. I was past caring as I was now focused on keeping the umbrella in the right place for KT’s Mexican “brella” wave!

I caught a bit of the Mavericks but it was definitely time to head back to Coldham’s before I did myself mischief…

The folkmaster

BREABACH – Bann (Breabach Records BRE002CD)

This album reminds me of the first time I encountered The Tannahill Weavers in 1978 having just recruited the wild excesses of piper Alan MacLeod in a musty upstairs room at a pub in Hampstead. The reason I mention this is that at the time the pipes not only fascinated but excited me in much the same way it does on this recording by Breabach. If you haven’t heard the pipes at full throttle in a ‘folk band’ context then I suggest you purchase a copy of this recording at the earliest opportunity! The component parts of the band are; James Lindsay (double bass), Calum MacCrimmon (bagpipes), Ewan Robertson (guitar) and new members James Duncan MacKenzie (bagpipes) and Megan Henderson (fiddle). Everyone lends a hand providing vocals showcased on the track “Scotland’s Winter” although personally I must admit I’m not really sure about the addition of the piobaireachd that follows the song preferring to opt for the “Radio Edit” that finishes the album. Having said that, there’s much to applaud here with thoughtful arrangements particularly on the ensemble instrumental set pieces including a wistful “Farley Bridge” that demonstrates the band’s artful use of subtlety providing as much enjoyment as the more fiery up-tempo numbers.

PETE FYFE

See the artist Web link for current tour dates: www.breabach.com

EWAN ROBERTSON – Some Kind Of Certainty (Greentrax CDTRAX328)

Ewan Robertson isn’t a name I was aware of but on the strength of this album I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for him in the future. Being immediately drawn to Richard Thompson’s “Vincent Black Lightning” (…a deeply rooted habit of checking out how other established artists are re-interpreted) I wasn’t disappointed. Led by Ewan MacPherson’s groovy mandolin set-up to the punchy vocals provided by Robertson the track displays quite admirably that our Celtic cousins are most definitely in the ascendant. Perhaps not a songwriter himself, Robertson undoubtedly has an ear for good songs from established performers and some, perhaps not quite so well known. On another subject…arrangements! Now, some of you who listen to this recording might feel that the choppy banjo rhythm utilised on Steve Knightley’s “Man Of War” strays into areas already covered by the likes of Benji Kirkpatrick in Seth Lakeman’s band but there’s copious amounts of rhythm set-ups worth plagiarising and so long as it pleases your intended audience I personally see no harm in utilising them to your advantage. Finally, in my capacity as a reviewer I’d like to put in my own sixpence worth and suggest that Ewan also looks at the works of another rising folk singer/songwriter Reg Meuross…I’m sure he’d do some great covers. Hopefully we should be hearing a lot more about this fine artist in the next few years and here is where it all began.

PETE FYFE

Artist’s website: http://breabach.com/about/ewan-robertson

Shrewsbury Festival Review

Driving through Shrewsbury, you are acutely aware of the medieval heritage that surrounds and seduces you, with the ghosts of England’s past seeming like the perfect hosts for a celebration of our folk music traditions. Arriving at the festival site, you are immediately enveloped by a relaxed festival atmosphere, with the Showground taking on the feel of a rural village.

Whilst the festival itself spans four days in total, my visit would be confined to just two afternoons this year, though one shouldn’t underestimate just how much entertainment and inspiration was packed in to this relatively short space of time, particularly when that time was filled with such an inspired selection of music.

Breabach were to provide the first music of my Sunday afternoon, with a spirited set of tunes and songs. The combined highland pipes of Calum MacCrimmon and Donal Brown were utterly electrifying, and Donal’s step-dancing brought a very visible energy to the band’s stage presence. Poor Patsy Reid was unable to lend her vocals to this afternoon’s set due to being struck down with the flu, though she still put in a fine, fluid performance on fiddle.

It is testament to the festival committee’s temerity, that they have given such prominence to the American singer-songwriter, Krista Detor, both at this year’s festival, and as part of the associated Darwin Song Project. Those of us who have already fallen under Krista’s enchanting spell are well aware of her eloquent writing talent, and her handsomely expressive vocals, and for those at Shrewsbury who were unfamiliar with Krista’s work, her performances this weekend must have made for a most alluring discovery. Krista made the marquee take on the feel of the most luxurious of concert venues, wrapping her sultry vocals around the most sumptuous ballads you might ever witness. For around an hour, the audience feasted on an emotional upheaval of humour, hope, and heartbreak.

Chris Wood is undoubtedly a national treasure, and to witness this one man playing on the main stage, armed with just his songs and guitar, made for a potent experience. Wood manages to write songs that connect with the national conscience, in a way that maintains a manifest degree of intimacy. His songs bear melodies and structures that owe much to the traditional styles of the British Isles, yet his lyrics speak a language that is very much relevant. His songs of family life chimed a particular resonance and warmed him to an attentive audience, but it was Wood’s intense song chronicling the last days of Jean Charles de Menezes that laid bare the nation’s shame and despair, to a mixture of discomfort and relief from the audience; discomfort from the acceptance that such a thing could happen in our own country, and relief that Wood was giving a frank and honest voice to what many of us have felt.

Returning to the festival on Monday afternoon, I took some time to just mill around the Village Stage and catch a glimpse of the variety of traditional dancing that was being performed, ranging from sensible and ladylike, to somewhat lewd and bawdy, but always performed in the best of spirits. The effort that these dance troupes put in to making their colourful costumes is nothing compared to the energy they expend during their wholehearted performances, and love ’em or loathe ’em they certainly accentuate the festival atmosphere, and do much to discourage any reservedness that you may feel!

Karine Polwart kicked off the afternoon’s music on the main stage, where she was warmly welcomed by a rapturous, near-capacity crowd; accompanied by the solid guitar and vocals of her brother, Stephen Polwart, and the versatile Inge Thomson, who displayed her typically intuitive accompaniment and sang like an absolute angel. You could really appreciate the wide appeal of Karine’s songs when you saw the reaction of the large festival audience, many of whom were applauding the opening chords to the songs they recognised. There were audience members of all ages enthusiastically singing along, heightening the sense that Karine really is one of the seminal songwriters of our time, with a body of songs that is cherished by an increasing number of admirers. A healthy dose of modesty meant that Karine faced the crowd with just a little bemusement, and looked genuinely surprised whenever her songs raised a cheer.

Megson proved to a laid-back audience why they are widely regarded as one of the folk scene’s rising stars with their exquisitely crafted, catchy folk-pop. They brought a finely tuned illumination to some old folk ballads, but it was their own songs that really roused the audience with winsome harmonies and bewitching choruses. In particular “Fell To The Breeze” hinted at their potential for wider appeal beyond the folk genre with a summery radiance that you couldn’t fail to be captivated by! Megson also provide a welcome change by singing proudly in their gorgeous Teeside accents, rather than opting for the usual mid-Atlantic drawl to which many singers seem to descend these days.

My visit to Shrewsbury was rounded off by Irish stalwarts Patrick Street, a group whose members possess renowned individual talent, that is surpassed only by their combined efforts. It was magical to witness these legends of traditional music whipping up a storm on the main stage, playing with an enviable zest and spirit. Patrick Street demonstrated an impressive intricacy thanks to the mesmerising string work of Andy Irvine and Arty McGlynn. Kevin Burke put in an effortless performance on fiddle, whilst John Carty’s combination of versatility and virtuosity ensured that no style or pace was beyond their reach. Patrick Street are a group who remind you that, most of all, traditional music really can be unbelievably great fun!

The fact that this year’s Shrewsbury Folk Festival was sold out well before the weekend itself speaks volumes, and demonstrates why this offers a genuinely unmissable event on the folk festival calendar.

All involved in staging this event should be heartily congratulated!

MIKE WILSON