The Woods is the third album from acclaimed musician and composer Hamish Napier, exploring and celebrating the ancient forests of his native Strathspey in the Scottish Highlands.
Rooted in the pine woodland of his home, Hamish’s third record follows on from his critically acclaimed albums The River (2016) and The Railway (2018). This 3rd release takes him beyond the midpoint of his ten-year journey to create his Strathspey Pentalogy – five albums of new compositions inspired by Hamish’s homeland, each representing the Classical elements water, fire, earth, wind and aether.
The Woods was commissioned by Cairngorms Connect, a partnership of neighbouring land managers committed to a bold and ambitious 200-year vision to enhance habitats, species and ecological processes across a vast area within the Cairngorms National Park.
The Woods is a beautiful folk tune cycle. Through the album’s 21 tracks, which incorporate 28 new tunes and pieces, Hamish explores the inter-connected flora and fauna, folklore, legends and characters of Scotland’s native wild forests.
In a true exploration of woodland and its connection to the past and present, there is a track on the album for every letter of the Scottish Gaelic tree alphabet (related to the Ogham alphabet), which was traditionally taught with reference to native trees and shrubs.
A variety of moods and tempos reflect the character of each native tree. There is a heady mix of jigs, reels, marches and slow airs. The cheerful mood of the leaves of the ash tree are captured in an upbeat polka called ‘Venus Of The Woods’, while the dark, twisted elm tree, used to make coffins, is transformed into a lament, ‘The Tree Of The Underworld’.
The forest lives and breathes through the music – recordings of saws and axes chopping wood, birdsong, forest wind, ice clinking in Loch Garten and the call of woodland stags are all woven into the tracks by maverick engineer and coproducer Andrea Gobbi.
Through The Woods, Hamish relives the days of his youth spent amongst the trees and his strong connection with the woodlands. He brings to life the stories and discoveries he’s made since moving from the city back to his native Grantown-on-Spey three years ago.
Hamish says, “I grew up by the Anagach Woods in Grantown and spent many years of my childhood playing there. What I viewed as simply, ‘the woods’, is now a gathering of different characters and personalities. My work is about celebrating my homeland, finding hidden gems and stories in the surrounding landscape. ‘The Woods’ is an album of identity. I have loved every moment exploring my native languages, music, folklore and the natural environment.
“I’m very grateful to Cairngorm Connect for the opportunity to celebrate this very special place that I am lucky enough to call home. Being deep in forest gives you a powerful sense of perspective. We are all creatures of the forest – for thousands of years trees have given us shelter, protection, fuel, medicines, sustenance and materials to build homes, wheels and boats. I hope this album not only speaks to a lot of people but also rekindles in some way man’s great bond with the woods.”
Hamish is joined on The Woods by an array of celebrated folk musicians including Ross Ainslie, Jarlath Henderson, Innes Watson, Calum MacCrimmon, James Lindsay, Steve Byrnes and Scottish Chamber Orchestra celloist Su-a Lee. The album was coproduced, recorded, mixed and mastered by Andrea Gobbi at GloWorm Recordings, Glasgow.
The Woods is the third instalment of Hamish Napier’s pentalogy of music inspired by the landscape and the people of Strathspey. It is released on the Spring Equinox, 20 March 2020, and will be available in CD and Digital formats.
Artist’s website: www.hamishnapier.com