AULD HAT NEW HEIDS – Volume 1 (Rickety Rackety Records RRR005)

Auld HatThe stated aim of Auld Hat New Heids’ album is to recreate the glory days of folk clubs – you remember; when we could go out for a good sing, have a couple of pints and still go home with change from a quid (yes, I am that old). This they do with considerable aplomb and even though these are Scottish folk clubs many of these songs were sung up and down the country night after night. Everyone knew ‘Shoals Of Herrin’’ and versions of ‘The Diamond Ship’ and ‘Twa Recruitin’ Sergeants’ and probably ‘Jock O’Hazeldean’ and ‘The Jute Mill Song’ too.

Auld Hat New Heids are Ian Bruce, probably the more famous of the Bruce brothers until Fraser’s appearance on Eggheads, fiddler Pete Clark (founder of the Neil Gow Festival) and Gregor Lowrey on accordion. What these four guys do seems simple enough – it was simple back then – but there are lots of clever twists to remind you what fine musicians they are.

The opening ‘Prelude’, written by Fraser and Ian, is a bit contrived but it has to set up the last line, making the point that here we have new heads playing what is considered old hat by many. There are songs by many of Scotland’s most famous. I can’t remember when I first heard Alex Campbell’s ‘Been On The Road So Long’ – I’d like to think it was from the man itself sometime back in the late 60s, but I won’t swear to it – but Archie Fisher’s ‘Fairfield Crane’ only came to my attention recently and I’d never heard Matt McGinn’s ‘Three Nights And A Sunday Double Time’ until today. That’s the beauty of folk music, there is always something new around the corner.

Six of the fourteen tracks were recorded live and the rest in the studio and inevitably the album represents a step forward from could have been achieved back then, both musically and technologically. The feeling is right, though, and that’s more important. All that remains is for the band to publish a key to the cover picture – I recognise Robert Burns, Ewan MacColl (even though he came from Salford), The Humblebums, Barbara Dickson and the blessed Michael Marra and is that Hamish Imlach looking over Gregor’s shoulder? I know who should be there – just not where they are. So please do that, chaps, while we wait for Volume Two.

Dai Jeffries

‘The Diamond Ship’ – live:

Artists’ website:

SKIPINNISH – The Seventh Wave (Skippinish Records SKIPCD26)

The Seventh WaveThe Seventh Wave is the seventh album to be released by Skipinnish and it is possibly one of the most enjoyable albums that I have recently been given the opportunity to review. When I agreed to take on the suicidal responsibility of reviewing new releases I was, unbelievably, excited about it. However, I have been disappointed with many of the albums I have been given, but not so this one. I am not sure if Skipinnish have been taking notes from my reviews but they seem to have “taken some of my advice”.

My Concern No 1 – If you only have 9 tracks to record then you are not ready to release an album Skipinnish – No problem. The Seventh Wave has 14 tracks. My Concern No 2 – Vocals are pushed back and over-powered by aggressive instrumentalisation. Skipinnish – No problem. They include twelve vocal tracks and the voice is always at the front supported by excellent musicianship.

My Concern No 3 – Lack of clarity in the vocals. Skipinnish – No problem. You can easily make out every word of every song. Superb clarity. My Concern No 4 – Groups issuing all of their vocal tracks entirely in Gaelic, a language few of their fans can understand. Skipinnish – No problem. The majority of their vocals are in English with the inclusion of their native Gaelic in acceptable levels.

My Concern No 5 – “Traditional” bands thinking that they are rock bands. Skipinnish – No problem. They are undoubtedly targeting an audience beyond the folk audience but with a professional awareness of the roots they came from. My Concern No 6 – Poor quality sleeves with not enough information about the album. Skipinnish – They provide a booklet with all the words of songs.

I will not go through the album track by track because that is the responsibility of the listener. I will tell you that most of them are simply excellent with two or three excelling even themselves. Skipinnish have included several “choral” backings to tracks and they are beautiful, especially on ‘The Iolaire’ and ‘Walking On The Waves’.

No album will be reviewed by me without some criticism and on this album, it relates to tracks 2, 7 and 13. I cannot stand the sound created by the introduction of “screeching” bagpipes played at an excessive speed supported by simplistic, heavy rock drummers. It is great fun for young, festival fans when played live. It gives them a chance to dance. Personally, I would not have included track 2, ‘The Hag’, as it is difficult to identify Skipinnish from any other folk band using the same instruments. Keep it in for live gigs but it is not great on an album. Strangely, on the final track the pipes are very much part of the effect but played sensitively and beautifully.

I am sure everybody who buys this album will love it and it is easy to fast forward track 2. It is unlikely you will fast forward any of the other tracks, maybe track 13. It is a great CD, so nip out and buy it.

Fraser Bruce

Artists’ website:

‘The Island’ – official video:

ELEPHANT SESSIONS – All We Have Is Now (Elephant Sessions CDTES02)

All We Have Is NowThis CD, All We Have Is Now, recently released by Elephant Sessions has nine exceptional tracks. Each one is a masterpiece of arrangements and instrumental skills. Many of the tracks are over five minutes long and should be described as ‘productions’. However, I find it difficult to place their music. I don’t know if you need to, but I am afraid music does fall into categories. I am aware that Elephant Sessions play at folk festivals but the heavy drum accompaniment and jazz like arrangements do not fit into the folk world I love. Some of the tracks could be described as ‘drummer’ with musical accompaniment.

When I first listened to All We Have Is Now, I had lost interest by the time I had reached the fourth track. I then listened to the CD many times but only a few tracks at a time. The production of each track varies considerably from any others on the CD and as I said earlier, is brilliant. I love each track but I will never listen to the full CD in one hit.

I am struggling to fairly assess the album because it is obviously very good but it is a bit overpowering. The cover is, in my opinion, very poor. It gives us absolutely no information about the reasoning or the origins of each track. It is in black and white with a collage of photographs of very little interest to anybody.

Elephant Sessions fans will love this. The heavy drumming will delight young festival goers but out and out folkies will struggle with it. Still, it is a top-quality production and will, I am sure, do very well.

Fraser Bruce

Artists’ website:

‘Wet Field Day’ – official video:

CHRISTY SCOTT – Amaranthine (Christy Scott Music CSMO1EP)

AmaranthineAmaranthine is a terrific five track EP released by Christy Scott. She has written all five of the songs and selected a well-respected group of musicians to support her.

Christy has a great voice and had created a really enjoyable EP. However, I am having difficulty categorising it. Neither the lyrics nor the arrangements would fall into a typical folk category. The lyrics all carry a personal in love theme and I personally am not keen on that. The romantics of the world will enjoy them more. I would place this EP more in pop or even country bracket. I know that there are many people who enjoy that and the record sell very well.

The one major criticism I have had nothing to do with Christy Scott. This EP has a problem which I am identifying more and more in folk albums issued by younger artistes. They are pushing vocals back and back allowing their music to be dominated by clever instrumentation. This is Christy’s record. She is a clever song-writer with a great voice. This CD is issued to promote Christy Scott, her singing voice and ability to write songs, not the backing musicians.

Tracks one and five recognise that. Tracks two, three and four are slightly overshadowed by the backing musicians and this is the fault of the producer. I am not saying they are not good, I am stressing a selfishness that has allowed the main reason for the release of the set to be dominated by the studio musicians.

Never mind, Christy, I like it and you are very good. Would I recommend it – yes, I would. It is a first release for Christy Scott and she will develop from this. The studio does not need to be so crammed. It is Christy’s voice and lyrics she need to promote. Me, an old ‘folkie’, has listened to this CD many, many times and so will you if you buy it. It is good!

Fraser Bruce

Artist’s website:

‘Another Song About Another’ live:

TUNEBOOK – Melody Lab (SHEEM02)

Melody Lab is a CD created by a group of fabulous Scottish musicians, Ross Ainslie, Simon Bradley and Mairearad Green joined by Mhairi Hall on piano, Matheu Watson on guitar and James Macintosh on percussion to “present an exploration of contemporary tune writing in the Scottish traditional context”.

There are nine tracks, seven with three tunes and two with only two tunes. All of the tunes are written by one or other of the musicians with Jamie MacLean and Anna-Wendy Stevenson gaining shared credits on a tune apiece. There can be no doubt that all of the musicians on this CD are superbly talented. Throughout the CD this is proven over and over again. As well as their instrumental ability, their writing skills are now highlighted.

For lovers of Scots music and musicians looking for new material, this CD is a must. I am impressed.

Fraser Bruce

HECLA – Smallpipes, Fiddle, & Gaelic Song (KRS001)

HeclaI note on the “Thanks to” section on the cover of this CD that the ‘UHI Student Development Fund’ get first credit. I have no other detail to go on other than that the musicians are Ilona Kennedy (Fiddle),  Ailis Sutherland (Smallpipes/Whistle/Backing Vocals) and Kaitlin Ross (Guitar/Vocals)

I suspect that this CD was an exercise to give these young musicians the experience of working in a studio and having the thrill of releasing a CD.

There is absolutely no doubt that they are all very talented but they could have possibly been given some instruction on how to create the personality and drive necessary to create a CD by some of the other top quality performers credited on the cover.

This is a “nice” CD and these musicians will learn and benefit from having worked on it. It will certainly do them no harm and well done to them. I enjoyed it.

Fraser Bruce