SKETCH Highland Time (Skye Records SRCDX003)

SKETCH Highland Time (Skye Records SRCDX003)I know about bagrock and whatever Saor Patrol call their blend of pipes, electric guitar, drums and more drums but techno piping is a new one. Which is very remiss of me since Highland Time is Sketch’s second album.

It should come as no surprise that the man behind Sketch is former Peatbog Faerie Iain Copeland who is responsible for the programming and production. It’s not much a band as the idea of a band. I presumed that the core, for the purposes of live performances, consists of fiddler Neil Ewart, who is also responsible for several fine tunes, Angus Binnie on pipes on whistles, Seaumas Maclennan on bouzouki and vocalist Darren Maclean with Copeland manning the electronics. I’m wrong because Charlie Stewart seems to have replaced Ewart. That seems like unfortunate timing.

Ali Levack and Ross Ainslie play as big a part on this album as the “core” and other guests include guitarist Luc McNally, the late Fraser Shaw leading his own tune ‘C Side’ and singer Maeve Mackinnon. It’s Lavack and Binnie who make the album because it really shouldn’t work. I mean: club beats and tunes grown from the tradition! And if it does work it should be boring as hell. The fact that it works and isn’t boring is down to two very fine pipers and Copeland’s fertile imagination.

Maclean’s vocals are somewhat secondary and often treated and Copeland himself handles the most extreme vocal part on ‘Taxi For Copeland’ which is actually Ewart’s tune, ‘The Road To Kilchoan’. No, I don’t know why it has two titles. When you get past all these apparent contradictions, however, Highland Time is a really good album.

Dai Jeffries

Sketch live at Cambridge Folk Festival 2013 – with Ross Ainslie: