ASSYNT – Road To The North (Garthland Records, GAR001CD)

Road To The NorthThe trio of musicians who make up Assynt may still only be in their 20s but between them have already amassed a barrowload of nominations and awards. Having worked with many of Scotland’s finest musicians, this year they finally came together as Assynt (named after an area of North-West Scotland). So, as the first album from this newly-minted group, there’s plenty of anticipation surrounding Road To The North.

That it’s an album of largely original material is the first of many pleasant surprises. Pipes and whistles man David Shedden contributes by far the largest share, although Graham Mackenzie (fiddle) and Innes White (guitar / mandolin) demonstrate equally strong composition skills. Only the final track, ‘Harris Dance’ presents a set of traditional tunes, drawing the line of continuity between old and new.

White’s understated playing is the keystone to the band, holding the centre rhythmically and with great sensitivity. Sometimes loose and jazzy (‘Fiend And The Hound’), at other times hinting at Spanish style (‘Aidan Jack’), or playfully riding the beat on ‘No Way Out’, he’s got flair to spare. On the lovely ‘Ava May’, his spare accompaniment underscores a lyrical lament very much in the Highland tradition.

Sheddon’s vigorous and nimble piping is at the fore on ‘The One Upper’ and title track, ‘Road To The North’. Mackenzie, whose clean style tends to minimal vibrato afterburn, readily matches or complements him, as the tunes demand. Frequently, fiddle and pipes/whistles are tightly and intricately entwined, moving effortlessly from mirroring the melody to chasing around and playing tag with it, as on ‘Forward Thinking’. On the smartly drilled ‘Garthland Drive’ they wreathe and twine sinuously around each other, whilst ‘Conal McDonagh’s’ initially moody fiddle gets bowled over by some frenzied pipes as they spin off in a rapidly turning pattern.

The interplay between these three musicians is deft and subtle, the tuneset bridging transitions smooth. There can be no doubting the quality of their composition, arranging and playing together. If they’re this good when they’re just starting out together, imagine what Assynt could become.

Su O’Brien

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: www.assyntmusic.com

‘The One Upper’ – live:

Scottish trio Assynt announce their debut album

Assynt

Assynt are one of Scotland’s newest, most exciting folk trios featuring award winning musicians Graham Mackenzie (fiddle), David Shedden (pipes/whistles) and Innes White (guitar/mandolin). Having performed together for many years, 2018 sees the official launch of Assynt and their debut album Road To The North. Predominantly comprising self-penned tunes, the album draws upon influences from traditional Scottish fiddle and pipe music, in particular the Highland and Gaelic traditions.

Over a year in the making and with the addition of BBC Radio Scotland Young Musician of the Year, Charlie Stewart on double bass and drummer, Scott Mackay, Road To The North was recorded and mixed by Scott Wood at Oak Ridge Studios and mastered by Michael Fossenkemper at TurtleTone Studios in New York.

As a band, Assynt are keen to explore their own compositions with nine of the ten tracks written by members of the band. However, deeply rooted in traditional folk music, the final track of the album, an arrangement of three well known Scottish tunes, clearly shows where the band’s roots lie.

Beginning 2018 at Celtic Connections in the New Auditorium with a collaboration with Iranian piper, Mohsen Sharifian and the Lian Band, Assynt have continued to preview music from their debut album in a sell out concert in Inverness as well as gigs in Glencoe and Glasgow. August will be see them perform in Arisaig; The National Piping Centre in Glasgow as part of the Piping Live festival; Braemar, and in September they will perform as part of the Blas festival in Portmahomack and Invergarry.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: www.assyntmusic.com

‘Aidan Jack Jigs’ – live: