THE TANNAHILL WEAVERS – Òrach (Compass Records 7417172)

ÒrachFew bands get to celebrate fifty years together – and some of those have taken a breather mid-career – so The Tannahill Weavers have joined a pretty exclusive club. Sub-titled The Golden Anniversary Album, their new record, Òrach, draws together music, friends and former colleagues. Joining the current line-up of Roy Gullane, Phil Smillie, John Martin and Lorne MacDougall are such luminaries as Dougie MacLean, Aaron Jones, Innes White and Davie Hunter.

The album opens with the title track, a classic march/strathspey/reel set. It initially sounds a little four-square to modern ears and I suspect that is by design, an imitation of the way things were done back in 1968. By the end of the reel the band have moved up a couple of gears but it’s early days yet so they settle back with Matt McGinn’s unusually romantic ‘Jenny A’ Things’ featuring the band’s first singer, John Cassidy. ‘Christchurch Cathedral’ comes from The Dubliners via Shooglenifty and sounds almost Playford-like until it slips into the jig variation.

 Òrach continues to mix songs and tunes more or less equally. There are two lyrics from the original weaver, Robert Tannahill, including ‘Jessie The Floo’er O’ Dunblane’ and the huge ballad, ‘The Battle Of Sheriffmuir’ adapted by Robert Burns from an earlier and longer poem – the battle ended in a sort of draw. Billy Connolly’s ‘Oh No!’ from The Humblebums’ final album (with Alison Brown on banjo) comes as a light-hearted surprise, in contrast to Daithi Rua’s ‘The Ghost Of Mick McDonnell’, a reflection on the Great War. The record closes with ‘Gordon Duncan Set’ commemorating his time with the band. Only one tune in the set, ‘Red Ken’s’ sometimes known as ‘Rory Gallagher’s’, was written by Duncan but the set was put together by him for his solo album, Just For Seumas.

I’m sorry if this is turning into a history lesson but there a so many fascinating stories surrounding a band that has survived five decades. More important is the variety of music they have played and present here. So sandwiched between two ghost stories, one old, one new, is ‘The Asturian Sessions’ that begins in Nova Scotia and ends in Asturias and features MacLean on didgeridoo! Òrach looks back with great affection but also looks forward as they absorb new music into their repertoire. It may be a case of grandfather’s axe but I reckon The Tannahill Weavers are good for another fifty years.

Dai Jeffries

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The Tannahill Weavers at the Just For Gordon concert:

DOUGIE MacLEAN – New Tomorrow (Dunkeld Records DUNCD039)

New TomorrowThere they are: the familiar ringing guitar, the unmistakeable melodic cadences. The last Dougie MacLean album I got was his 40th anniversary concert set, Till Tomorrow, and I wonder if that day has arrived in the form of his latest CD. Perhaps not: the songs are a mixture of great optimism and almost apocalyptic pessimism. Recorded at the Butterstone studio, New Tomorrow features guest appearances by Davie Duncan and Matheu Watson but the bulk of the backing is provided by producer and multi-instrumentalist Jamie MacLean who also co-wrote several tracks and happens to be Dougie’s son.

The opening title track paints the happiest picture. It’s dedicated to Dougie’s grandsons and basically says: “Hello. I hope I’ll get to watch you grow and teach you a few things” but that depends on times to come. The second track, ‘Garden Wall’ takes an opposite view; looking back with regret at the dashed hopes of youth and seeking that utopia over the wall. I particularly like ‘Shadow Of The Mountain’. It has a certain “sod it” motif – the world may have gone to pot but I’m still here and I can afford to get drunk.

In the middle of the set are three songs: ‘Demetrius’, ‘Thunderbolt’ (a country-tinged rocker) and ‘Wild And Windy Night’ which are rather more elusive but then we’re back to the gloom with ‘Never Enough’ which, along with ‘Wisp Of A Whisper’, is full of disappointments. The recurring images of storms, of mountains, of being lost but also of hope for a better future, run through the record.

If I’ve made New Tomorrow sound terribly dour that wasn’t my intention. It’s the curse of the reviewer to always pick at the meanings of songs. The album is a very good listen from start to finish and the arrangements are excellent and varied, while always keeping Dougie’s voice and guitar front and centre.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Wild And Windy Night’ –  live:

Dougie Maclean: new album

Dougie Maclean

Leading singer-songwriter Dougie MacLean is looking forward to his first big solo concert in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall during the award-winning Celtic Connections festival in over a decade … on 24 January 2018. Tickets are certainly moving fast and it’s anticipated that the concert will sell out in advance.  The concert will bring together some of MacLean’s best loved work (both songs and stories!) and some wonderful new songs from his latest album New Tomorrow.

Maclean has had many fortunate years of involvement in the long running festival performing with his band or with a string section or in collaboration with other special guests or with an full orchestra … sometimes performing his own specially commissioned music like the Perthshire Amber Suite or The Muir of Gormack or his song-cycle Rural Image. This year MacLean is delighted to be returning for his first solo concert at the festival since a sell-out solo show in the same main auditorium back in 2004!

Dougie MacLean said:

“I am really looking forward to performing at Celtic Connections next week, the Concert Hall in Glasgow is a magnificent venue; the acoustics are fantastic.  I always get a lovely warm welcome in Glasgow and the international Celtic Connections audiences are wonderful.  I’m planning a night filled with old favourites mixed with a few new songs that I hope the audience will really appreciate….hope they’re all getting ready to raise the roof with a couple of those choruses!”

Described as “Scotland’s pre-eminent singer-songwriter and a national musical treasure” (SingOut USA) MacLean is internationally renowned for his song ‘Caledonia’, music for Last Of The Mohicans and inspired performances in concerts and festivals all over the world including New York’s Carnegie Hall, Sydney’s Opera House and London’s Festival Theatre.

New Tomorrow MacLean’s recently released and much-anticipated album has been attracting attention from across the world with air play and orders flooding in.  It’s his first release since his acclaimed live Caledonia Cantata album.  The new studio album, which he has written, recorded and produced with his son Jamie MacLean combines a few well-loved songs which have already proved popular at his recent concerts with a selection of brand new songs.

The album is a beautifully curated selection of songs including the title track ‘New Tomorrow’ a timelessly poignant song written for his grandsons. It also features ‘Shadow Of The Mountain’, one of MacLean’s most popular concert songs and stories.  He wrote the song in Alaska on tour and it tells the tale of the volcano looming over the town in which he was performing.

‘Wild And Windy Night’ is a modern take on a “night-visiting song”, the choruses feature audiences from MacLean’s own Perthshire Amber Festival and the popular Woodford Festival in Australia.  This truly international track is a classic example of the charm of MacLean’s songs with inspiring verses and a lyrical chorus combined with innovative recording and production techniques.

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The classic ‘Caledonia’:

First acts announced for Fairport’s Cropredy Convention 2017

Cropredy Convention

Fairport Convention has announced acts booked so far to appear at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention music festival in 2017. The line-up is not yet finalised and late additions will be announced in January. The three-day event takes place on Thursday 10, Friday 11 and Saturday 12 August 2017.

The festival will celebrate Fairport Convention’s Golden Anniversary with performances by many former members as well as the band’s current line-up.

Thursday’s headline act is The Divine Comedy. Fronted by Neil Hannon, the band’s repertoire is rich in Top 40 hits and their sumptuous orchestral sound is complemented by acerbic and sophisticated lyrics.

Former Fairport member Richard Thompson is a regular at Cropredy and this year will be playing on Friday evening.

Show of Hands features Steve Knightley and Phil Beer. The duo return to Cropredy after a ten-year absence.

Feast Of Fiddles presents six of Britain’s finest fiddlers backed by a five-piece band in a musical extravaganza of dazzling instrumental virtuosity.

Multi-instrumentalist duo The Pierce Brothers return by popular request. Jack and Pat Pierce stormed their Cropredy debut in 2016 earning themselves a repeat invitation.

A Cropredy first appearance for composer, songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist Dougie MacLean, one of Scotland’s best-loved solo performers.

Making a welcome return to Cropredy, Marillion pioneered the British ‘neo-prog’ genre and remains one of the most innovative bands on the UK prog scene.

Formed in 2016 Cats in Space is a power-pop seven-piece playing high quality 1970s ‘commercial rock’ with a contemporary twist.

Former Steeleye Span fiddler Peter Knight’s Gigspanner Big Band makes its first appearance at Cropredy.

Characterised by his energy and enthusiasm on stage, Gerry Colvin performs beautifully-crafted imaginative songs.

Cropredy will also present a set by the winner(s) of the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award.

Golden Anniversary performances at Cropredy

Saturday’s afternoon programme will start with a triple bill of performances from ‘early years’ former members of Fairport – Ashley Hutchings, Judy Dyble and Iain Matthews – as part of the anniversary celebration.

Ashley Hutchings founded Fairport Convention and at Cropredy 2017 he will present Morris On, a spectacular of traditional music and dance. Fairport’s original female vocalist Judy Dyble will be performing with Band of Perfect Strangers, her regular musical collaborators. Iain Matthews, Fairport’s first male lead singer will be joined by Andy Roberts and Mark Griffiths to present Plainsong, a harmonic blend of English folk-rock and American alt-country.

There will be two chances to see Fairport Convention co-founder Richard Thompson. He will play a full set in his own right on Friday then join Fairport on Saturday evening.

Fairport Convention will celebrate their fifty years with a marathon performance to close the festival on Saturday. Joined on stage by former members and guests, their set will feature the very best from half a century of musicmaking. Fairport will also play on Thursday when the festival will open with a short welcoming set by the band’s semi-acoustic line-up.

Cropredy tickets on sale for Christmas

Fairport Convention is putting three-day festival tickets on sale in time for Christmas. The online box office will open on Sunday 11 December 2016 and tickets will remain on sale for one week. UK orders will be mailed Special Delivery at no extra cost to ensure delivery in time for Christmas.

The box office will re-open on Wednesday 1 February 2017 when all concert tickets and camping tickets will be available.

Pre-Christmas three-day concert tickets cost £125 and are exclusively available from Fairport Convention’s website fairportconvention.com. Camping tickets cost £45 for three nights.

MAGGIE MACINNES – Spirit Of Life

MAGGIE MACINNES Spirit Of LifeI first came across Maggie MacInnes on an album with George Jackson some years ago and was taken by her impressive vocals and harp playing. Last year she released a cd on Dougie MacLean’s Dunkeld record label, which received many plaudits from the folk press.

The new album picks up the reins but is given to a fuller production with musical contributions from Sean O’Rourke, Charlie McKerron and Brian McAlpine. Allowing the fact that the whole album is sung in Gaelic, prejudices are broken by the beauty of the voice.

On the track ‘Thug mi gaol do’n fhear bhan’ the accompaniment of the glissando effect electric guitar (like the one’s Big Country and Runrig popularised) is an exercise in restrained performance. The two walking songs that follow utilise

Charlie’s swinging fiddle and backing vocals by her mother Flora MacNeill and the children of the Glasgow Gaelic Primary School.

Not as ethereal as her previous recording but just as rewarding.

Original Posting date -18-May-2001
Reviewers Name – Pete Fyfe

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