2016 will see The Paul McKenna Band celebrate their 10th anniversary. To celebrate this milestone they are releasing their fourth, highly anticipated, studio album, Paths That Wind, produced by the legendary John McCusker.
The new album features guests in the form of some of Scotland’s greatest musicians – John McCusker, Rod Paterson, Mike Vass and James Lindsay
With a contemporary approach to songs, although not straying too far from their roots, their arrangements are both fresh and innovative. The exciting sound of The Paul McKenna Band is created through outstanding vocals, driving guitar and bouzouki, intense fiddle playing, a warm pairing of flute and whistles and dynamic bodhrán and percussion.
2016 started off with a bang with a three week tour of Australia which included playing in the new year to a crowd of 30,000 at Woodford Folk Festival. The band have a hectic year ahead with tours in America, Canada, Europe and the UK.
Iain MacFarlane is a former member of Blazin’ Fiddles and he’s recruited a few old friends to play on Gallop To Callop, his debut solo album. There’s Ewen Henderson, formerly of Battlefield Band, former Altan melodeon player Dermot Byrne, Breabach’s Megan Henderson, Ewan Robertson and James Lindsay, pianist/flautist Hamish Napier and Iain MacDonald who has played with just about everybody including Ossian and Wolfstone. This is a band with a real pedigree.
You should have a fair idea of what to expect and you won’t be far wrong. There are quite a lot of original compositions and some drawn from the tradition and the standard piping repertoire. The beauty of MacFarlane’s writing is that you are hard-pressed to tell the new from the old. The up-tempo numbers are played in, dare I say, the old-fashioned style with a piano continuo and if you’ve heard Violet Tulloch you’ll know what that is. Some of the piano is undoubtedly by Napier but some is by Iain’s wife Ingrid Henderson who is perhaps better known as a clarsach player and it is that instrument that leads some of the gentler pieces such as the lovely ‘Isobel’s Tune’.
It’s hard to pick favourites as the album whirls past. ‘Tatties On The Manifold’ with MacDonald’s whistle is a particularly fine bouncy tune and that is followed by the breakneck set of ‘Stoddie’s Reels’ and I can’t resist a tune like ‘The Head, The Heart And The Tail’ which describes the process of whisky distillation.
This is the perfect album from lovers of Scottish traditional music. Iain MacFarlane writes and plays with a love and respect for the tradition and you can’t ask for much more than that.
Voted ‘Best Live Act 2013’ & ’Best Folk Band 2012‘ at the Scots Trad Music Awards and twice nominated ‘Best Band’ at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards; Scottish five-piece Breabach deliver a thrilling and unique brand of contemporary folk music that has earned them international recognition on the world and roots music scene as one of the UK’s most dynamic and exciting bands.
After a whirlwind five years traversing the globe, touring Australia, New Zealand, Asia, North America, Scandinavia and the middle East, Breabach are delighted to announce their fifth studio album Astar (translating from Scottish Gaelic as distance or journey). The music on the album takes inspiration from the beauty of both the places and people the band have visited and the wonderful musicians and cultures encountered along the way. Working with producer Greg Lawson (Moishes Bagel, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, GRIT Orchestra) the band have taken melodic, rhythmic and harmonic ideas from each of the countries they have visited. Some of this is woven into the arrangement, some of this is achieved through self-penned works. Through it all however, it’s their Scottish roots that remain at the core of the recording with work from Burns, Dick Gaughan and Donald Macleod finding it’s way into the mix. Augmenting the album will be some special guests including Yidaki player Mark Atkins (AUS), extraordinary Aborigine artist Yirrmal of Black Arm Band (AUS) Maori tradition bearer Scott Morrison (NZ), Quebecois violinist Olivier Demers of Le Vent Du Nord (Quebec) and Hardanger virtuoso Olav Luksengård Mjelva of Nordic Fiddlers Bloc (NO).
Breabach unite the talent of Calum MacCrimmon (pipes/whistles/bouzouki/vocals), Ewan Robertson (guitar/ vocals), James Mackenzie (pipes/flute/whistles), Megan Henderson (fiddle/vocals/stepdance) and James Lindsay (double bass). Since launching their career as winners of the Open Stage Award at Celtic Connections in 2005 the band have steadily moved from strength to strength, picking up accolades and performing at esteemed events along the way. The 2016 release of Astar sees them reaching new levels of their musical ambition and maturity.
This, the third album by Edinburgh banjo-playing singers Deborah Arnott and Clare-Louise Neilson, again draws on influences from both traditional American and English folk, here backed by a core band that predominantly features Danny Hart on fiddle, James Lindsay on double bass, drummer Ali Murray and Davey MacAuley on keyboards, the latter also sharing keyboard duties with producer Paul Savage.
As before, the songs are pretty much about tales of relationships waxing and waning (though, sadly, this time there’s no alcohol brand product placement references), but they have expanded musical horizons, bringing shades of both jazz and Latin to the gently lapping regret-veined ‘I Could Have Done More For You’ while ‘King of My Apple Tree’ shades to the sort of slightly spooked folk parlayed by King Creosote, one of Savage’s other CV credits, and the war dance rhythms of the bluegrassy ‘Hawk and Eagle’ also incorporate treated drum effects.
Generally speaking, however, it’s their Appalachian affections that colour things like the shuffle ‘n’ stomp ‘Seasons Are Changing’, Neilson’s fiddle-backed ode to new motherhood, ‘Little Stranger’, and the simple, banjo-accompanied please don’t go sentiments of ‘Don’t Make A Fool Out Of Me’. It’s also there on waltzing urban love story ‘This Is A Story’, although the thing that strikes most is how both that and the rollicking ‘What If I Don’t Want To’ cast the pair as a female answer to The Proclaimers, the inlay does, after all feature a photo of Leith’s “landscape of grey hardened gold“, as Arnott’s optimistic ‘Patch Of Green’ has it. It’s a comparison they carry well.
After the critically acclaimed “BANN” comes the wonderful Ùrlar, the fourth instalment from current “Scottish Trad Music Award’s Folk Band of the Year”, BREABACH.
In June of 2013 the band toured Scotland and visited each of their 5 hometowns for a very special night of music. During the visits, the band was able to meet with local tradition bearers, friends and family to source songs and melodies for this release. Ùrlar is centred firmly around community and is undoubtedly the bands most diverse undertaking which has gained further inspiration and direction under the production of multi-instrumentalist and award-winning singer Kris Drever (Lau).
As their “hometown” tour inspired this album, the combination of both, has, in turn, inspired Breabach to undertake a full UK tour, during October/November. See our Tour News section for dates and details.
BREABACH harbours the multiple talents of: Calum Maccrimmon, Ewan Robertson, James Duncan Mackenzie, Megan Henderson and James Lindsay.
Enjoy the album and, hopefully, see you on the tour.
Label – Breabach Records BRE003CD
Distribution- Proper Distribution & Highlander Distribution
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.