RURA – In Praise Of Home (Rura Music RURACD003)

In Praise Of HomeAlmost the first sound you hear is the voice of Steven Blake’s grandfather, James Russell, reflecting on his home in Montrose. Or rather the feeling of home, that sensation sailors used to call the channels, and that idea is really what In Praise Of Home is about. Later, we hear some of the story of David Foley’s grandmother, Sheila Littlejohn, who came to Scotland from Jamaica as a child.

Both Blake and Foley composed tunes inspired by these stories, the former being the opener and title track of what is otherwise a purely instrumental album. It segues effortlessly into the second track, Jack Smedley’s ‘The First Day’ which harks back to the band’s origins as an instrumental quartet, having gained and lost Adam Holmes in the interim. The track, opening with keyboard drones, quickly morphs into the most traditional sounding tune on the record and will be released as a single.

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be and the band turn to other sources of inspiration for a while. ‘Malice Member’ was inspired by Jack Badcock and ‘Catriona’s’ by Catriona Price and I refuse to speculate on what might have prompted Foley to write ‘Lust In Translation’. Then comes his ‘Away Back’ with the voice of his grandmother. He took a step back while Blake, Smedley and Adam Brown wrote ‘The Gorilla’, inspired, apparently by a Gorillaz track.

Finally we come to two tracks linked as ‘Horizons Pts 1 and 2’. The first, Steven Blake’s ‘Below The Horizon’ is built around his Rhodes with Jack Smedley’s fiddle picking up a mournful melody. It’s my favourite track. Smedley composed the final ‘Journeys New’ which brings the whole album full circle but was the first track written. It’s built over Adam Brown’s guitar with the fiddle picking up the melody and features producer Euan Burton on Rhodes. Starting gently, it builds quickly to an appropriately exciting finish for a record that sees Rura moving on again.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘Lust’ – live:

Rura announce new album


In Praise of Home is the new album from four-piece powerhouse Rura. The Scottish outfit, described as one of the most exciting bands on the Scottish folk scene today, will release their new album on Friday 1st June 2018.

With their last album (Despite the Dark) released in 2015, it is three years since RURA last produced a record. The foursome have taken their time to make sure their new material is as reflective of them as a band as possible, with their new release being their first ever exclusively instrumental album.

In Praise of Home features nine tracks of completely self-penned music that showcases a fresh and evolved sound from these four outstanding instrumentalists and celebrates a new chapter for the band.

Jack Smedley, one of the founding members and fiddle player in the band, said: “For us In Praise of Home celebrates our progression as a band – this was one of the biggest motivators behind us composing all of the music together as a four piece. The primary overarching theme for this album is all of us getting back to our roots as instrumentalists, composing and playing together as a group, whilst at the same time showcasing a progression in our sound. We’re pretty happy with the result and we hope listeners are too!”

Throughout the new album’s writing process, the group felt there was the opportunity within some of the music to feature spoken word and sampled audio. Sampled interviews with band member David Foley’s granny and Jack’s grandfather – both sharing stories of their home – can be heard on the album. This recognition of their ancestry and the places Rura to name both the opening track and the full album In Praise of Home.

Rura began in 2010, as award-winners at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections. Since then Jack Smedley, Steven Blake, David Foley and Adam Brown’s powerful, entrancing instrumentals have been a main stage highlight of many of the world’s leading folk festivals, including Cambridge, Tønder, Winnipeg, Vancouver and HebCelt, amongst countless others in over 20 countries.

Enjoying a number of accolades over the past eight years, Rura were named Live Act of the Year at the 2015 Scots Trad Music Awards and nominated Folk Band of the Year in 2016.

Rura have affirmed their position as one of Scotland’s most powerful contemporary folk-based bands. Their rugged yet refined blend of fiddle, Highland pipes, flute, bodhran and guitar has won a devoted following in many corners of the globe, amongst audiences and critics alike.

Rura will be taking their new album on tour throughout June this year, taking in 15 venues across the UK.

Artists’ website:

JAMES DUNCAN MACKENZIE – Sròmos (own label JMMCD002)

SròmosJames Duncan Mackenzie is, as you know, piper and flautist with Breabach, one of the finest of the young Scottish bands. James is from the Isle of Lewis and there is a big story behind Sròmos, his second solo album: the history of the island over the last two centuries, its landscape, myths and characters. It’s a completely instrumental album, all self-composed with a core band of producer John Lowrie, Alan Nairn, Innes White and James Lindsay and two guest fiddlers; Alasdair White and Jack Smedley. James provides brief but very informative notes that make me want to seek out a book on the history of Lewis.

The opening title track starts with echoey notes on Lowrie’s Rhodes piano and you might think that you’re in for something very modern but James’ flute immediately takes up a very traditional sounding tune. The music builds almost like a ceilidh band before the tune fades back to the Rhodes and leads gently into the linked piece, ‘The Lazy Beds Of Rias’. Sròmos was a settlement cleared in the 19th century to make way for deer. It’s a common story across the Highlands, I know, but it’s made more poignant by the fact that the ruins can still be seen. Lazy beds are are version of ridge and furrow cultivation and their remains can be seen too. And now this is beginning to sound like a history lesson.

James’ pipes are first heard in the middle of ‘The Garron/The Plough On The Cross-Beam’ but he returns to the flute for the absolutely delightful ‘Stornoway Waltz’ with the melody played in double time over a steady but unobtrusive dance beat. ‘Land Raiders’ is another great story opening with flute over White’s acoustic guitar. The intensity builds as the pipes take over for the angry second and third sections.’Walk Home’ concerns the wreck of a troop-ship in 1919 while the up-tempo ‘Langavat’ describes two notable features of the Lewis landscape and there’s more history to take us the close.

Sròmos is an absolutely delightful album; a soundtrack for a visit to the Isle of Lewis should you ever get to cross the Minch.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

James and his band live:

Siobhan Miller – single, album and tour dates

Siobhan Miller

As a taster for the forthcoming album Strata, Siobhan Miller’s lovely, new single ‘One Too Many Mornings’ is released today.

As well as Siobhan’s wonderful vocals, the single features Aaron Jones and Kris Drever (guitar), Tom Gibbs (piano), Euan Burton (bass) and Jack Smedley (viola) This interpretation of Bob Dylan’s classic song also features vocals and drums, from Admiral Fallow frontman Louis Abbott.

A two-time winner of Scots Singer of the Year, Siobhan Miller is widely regarded as one of the foremost vocalists in Scotland. Daughter of folk musician Brian Miller and from a musical household her new album Strata sees her looking back to the songs she grew up around and that influenced her musical life. Refreshing these songs and recording them for the first time, she is joined by some of Scotland’s finest musicians including Kris Drever and Aidan O’Rourke, from Lau, and Phil Cunningham.

In support of the forthcoming album, (Due out in February, 2017) Siobhan will be touring the UK during February and March, preceded by a launch date at Celtic Connections.

Artist’s website:

Listen to the song:

Rura – new album and tour


One of the most exciting folk-based bands to emerge from Scotland in recent years, Rura returns with their feverishly-anticipated second album, Despite the Dark.

Rugged and hard-hitting, yet intricately disciplined, instrumentals sit alongside heartfelt, anthemic songs, in a masterpiece release from the Glasgow and Edinburgh-based five-piece.

Lead, looping melody lines from fiddler Jack Smedley and Steven Blake, on Highland pipes and whistle, are bolstered by a punch-packing rhythm section of bodhran and guitar from David Foley and Adam Brown – a powerful combination, matched by the earthy honesty of singer-songwriter Adam Holmes’ vocals.

Recorded by highly respected recording and live engineer, Andrea Gobbi, and produced by one of Scotland’s foremost multi-instrumentalists, Ali Hutton (Treacherous Orchestra, Old Blind Dogs) – the album is an all-round triumph.

The tone is established within the seven-and-a-half minute opening track, Dark Reel. Not only was it the band’s first arrangement of new material for the record, but it illustrates the band’s natural progression towards larger arrangements and heightened production levels.

Following tracks weave between similarly high octane sets, and songs – namely the stirring ‘Between the Pines’ – to the delicacy of ‘Cauld Wind Blast’, ‘The Lowground’ and ‘The Glorious 45′.

The intensity and suspension of closing number ‘The Lasher’ bookends nine tracks of powerful, whilst contrastingly stripped back, subtle arrangements of instrumental and vocal mastery, demonstrating the band’s musical maturity, and highlighting both an innate understanding of their chosen material, and unashamed joy in what they do.

Artists’ website:

‘The Lasher’ – live at Celtic Connections:

Tour Dates –

RURA – Break It Up (Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX364)

I don’t know what it is…maybe it’s the water…Highland Spring naturally (!) that they’re drinking inScotland but the skirl of the pipes is causing many ‘folk’ audiences in the UK to prick up their ears. It will possibly come as no surprise then that the band Rura are creating something of a buzz with this, their first release on the evergreen Greentrax label. Opening with the march/reel “Oran nan Mogaisean (Song Of The Moccasins)” they follow in the footsteps of The Tannahill Weavers and The Battlefield Band where, rather than use a full drum kit they opt for David Foley’s driving bodhran. Of course this draws your attention to the more organic process of ‘acoustic’ music and the excellent combination of Steven Blake (pipes/whistle), Jack Smedley (fiddle/vocals), Adam Holmes (vocals/guitar) and James Lindsay on bass. This is a band that can seriously ‘rock’ when pumping out Murray Attaway’s (Guadalcanal Diary) song “Allegory” or just as easily lull you into a false sense of security with the final track “Lament For Donald Ban” where the plaintive fiddle is supplemented by the inclusion of the pipes in full cry. No messing about, Rura can get down and dirty with the best of them.


Artist’s website: