BREABACH – Fàs (Breabach Records BRE007CD)

FàsBreabach’s Fàs is a miorbhuileach (aka wonderful!) Scottish folk album that avoids the commercial big shops on Princes Street. Rather, it strolls down the backstreets of Edinburgh, enjoys a Belhaven pint (or two!), contemplates a walk onto heights of Arthur’s Seat, and then conjures the beauty of the Firth of Forth’s midnight lapping waves with its songs and instrumental prowess.

You know, the great world music band 3 Mustaphas 3 sang with the anthemic manta, “Forward in all directions”.

And that’s certainly true for the first instrumental, ‘The Old Collection’. A little rumble paves the way for Highland pipes (Thank you, Calum MacCrimmon!) while new guy Conal McDonagh’s uilleann pipes dance in the Nessie wake. Then, James Lindsay’s double bass pulses with deep approval, as the entire tune just explodes in an ancient dance inching with musical steps that touch old stone within a hair’s breadth of any sabre’s edge. To make an odd comment: the dueling lead instruments and prominent bass (sort of) conjure the melodic excitement of the two guitar Wishbone Ash – done Scottish traditional piper style.

But then, the band sings its songs. ‘Revolutions’ is a very modern tune that (with English vocals and uillean pipes), pleads its case for a continuous future that “keeps us going”. The song has the quiet integrity of Ivan Drever (he of solo and Wolfstone fame!). And ‘Eadar An Da Bhraigh’ is sung by Megan Henderson (who also contributes violin!) and is backed with gentle piping and that wonderous double bass. The tune will certainly with appeal to fans of Triona Ni Dhomhnaill and her Bothy Band. The same is true for ‘Fàil I Fàil Ó’, with its purity of Gaelic vocals, an acoustic stum, joyous dual-edged piping, a smidgin of bouzouki, and even more of that sympathetic bass heartbeat. Early Capercaillie comes to mind. And the title song, ‘Fas’, is even better with its up-tempo (sort of jazzy) dance-stepped pulse, which gets delightfully weird with its ending other-worldly vocals. This is magical music.

By the way, the title Fàs is the Gaelic word for “growth”. The album is aptly named as the music is, indeed, a stride to a new vibrant vibe, what with the dual pipes, strong vocals that permeate the instrumental dexterity, and even a light touch of electronic colour. And this music is yet another collective bloom on the ancient thistle flower – whose beauty has inspired countless Mid-Lothian (and beyond!) hearts, like Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott; and fast forward, The Boys Of The Lough, The Battlefield Band, Silly Wizard, Runrig, Big Country, Five Hand Reel, Old Blind Dogs, and more recently, Manran and Malinky; and to state the obvious, an aptly named football club or two, But, like all of the above, this music contributes to stone circle Robert Burns’ creed, even in the light rain at the Culloden battlefield, that confirms “A Man’s A Man For A’ That”.

And (also) by the way, thanks to Google translator for the wonderful word, miorbhuileach.

That said, the cylinders fire once again with ‘Bròg To The Future’, which swirls and whirls with more uillean and Highland pipes, acoustic guitar, a demented fiddle, that lovely bass, all of which pulse, once again, to go “Forward in all directions”. Ditto for ‘Dear Green’ which begins with a quiet guitar and waltzing double bass (Thank you. Ewan Robertson and the already-mentioned James Lindsay!) and all of the above instrumentation, although the fiddle is, this time, not so demented.

There are more songs: ‘Lochanside’ is an acoustic dual voiced song that recalls (the great) Ossian, Big compliment, there! And ‘John Mackenzie’s March’ blends beautiful “Both sides of the Tweed” instrumental colour with yet another passionate dual-voiced vocal with Scottish drama to burn. It’s just a brilliant performance.

The final song, ‘Changing World’, certainly punctuates the final unifying thought of the album: This is joyous Scottish folk music that “embraces the endless sky”. It’s that ancient dance that’s always inching with musical steps that touch old stone within a hair’s breadth of any saber’s edge. And it’s the sound that conjures the comfort of the Firth of Forth’s midnight lapping waves– with that Belhaven pint (or two!) always faithfully in hand.

Bill Golembeski

Artists’ website:

‘Fàs’- official video: