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:

GEORGE DUFF – The Collier Laddie (BEAGCD BEAG CD005)

Collier LaddieAlthough he’s been singing for many years and is well-known and respected in Scotland George Duff hadn’t until now made a solo album. He is The Collier Laddie of the title – a National Coal Board engineer, to be precise – and a fair part of his repertoire is made up miners’ songs. He hasn’t gone for a thematic record, however, and here you’ll hear romantic songs, two of Robert Burns’ lyrics and Hamish Henderson’s most famous song. George has a terrifically strong and clear voice and is steeped in Scottish tradition but his album encompasses modern production values, thanks in part to co-producer Kevin Macleod. The assembled musicians include Mike Katz, John Martin and Mark Dunlop – quality assured.

The album opens with the title track and ‘The Blackleg Miner’, performed in his typically robust style before switching to gentler thoughts with ‘The Banks Of The Bann’. I have to say that The Collier Laddie includes quite a few of my favourite songs of which this is one. There are some contemporary songs among the traditional. Brian McNeill’s ‘The Prince Of Darkness’ is as grim as any mining song I’ve ever heard; Geordie McIntyre’s ‘Remember Connolly’, with bodhran accompaniment from Dunlop, takes us into the political arena to be followed by Alistair Hulett’s heart-breaking ‘He Fades Away’ – an example of perfect sequencing in my humble opinion. I don’t suppose ‘The D-Day Dodgers’ can be considered contemporary any more but ‘When These Shoes Were New’ can. Michael Marra’s song is better known as ‘Take Me Out Drinking Tonight’ but this is his preferred title and it makes a fitting, if slightly stereotypical, ending to an album of Scottish songs.

I’ve really enjoyed this album and if you were beginning to think that people don’t make records like this any more, here’s one to prove that they do.

Dai Jeffries

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.

Artist’s website: https://www.facebook.com/thecollierladdie/

‘Rattlin’ Roarin’ Willie’ with Kevin Macleod:

Roddy Hart announces new album

roddy hart

If the Scots slang – which gives Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire’s Swithering its name – suggests any sort of indecisiveness at play, then it’s one that the band whole-heartedly embraced to help push the boundaries of what it felt capable of creating.  From the very beginning, this was a group of players eager to change how they approached making a record.  Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, the band (Scott Clark, Roddy Hart, Andy Lucas, Scott Mackay, John Martin, Geoff Martyn, and Gordon Turner) formed naturally over a number of years as Hart’s own evolution as an artist and songwriter progressed.  Their first studio album-proper, 2013’s Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire, was critically hailed for its distinctively dark and atmospheric sound and led to a nomination on the fiercely contested long list for the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award.  Notably, the record also caught the attention of prime time US TV host Craig Ferguson who invited the band to perform on The Late Late Show for CBS that same year, leading to a 5-night residency that played out to a combined audience of over 12 million viewers.  A Scottish Variety Award for International Breakthrough Artist of The Year followed, as did a nomination for Best Band at the Spirit of Scotland Awards, and performances at the opening party for the Commonwealth Games and a celebrated show with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra only served to bolster their reputation as a formidable live band; cemented by the huge popularity of their self-curated and much loved “Roaming Roots Revue” for Celtic Connections each year.

And yet the challenge was what to do next.  Whilst 2015 saw a performance at SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas, most of the year was given over to writing and recording what would become Swithering.  There was no rush: only the intention of deepening the musical bond forged between them.  “I started bringing songs in that were at various stages of their life, and just seeing where we could take them”, Hart explains.  “It was uncharted territory for us: in equal parts daunting, tense, exhilarating and rewarding”.  A more collaborative energy developed, with work studiously taking place in the confines of their rehearsal room in Film City, Govan over a number of months.  Admired Scottish producer Paul Savage (Mogwai, Emma Pollock, Admiral Fallow) was then asked to come on board to co-produce and help them realise their vision.  “He was key to adding a sense of perspective – and calm – to it all, allowing the madness of this new working relationship forming between us to unfold in the most creative way possible”.  Hart is convinced the ends justified the means: “We are stronger as a band for it, and we’ve made the best record I’ve ever been involved in”.
The result is an album as musically diverse and eclectic as it is seeking and inventive.  From the gnarly Wilco-esque guitar solo ripping through the middle of ‘Dreamt You Were Mine’, to the Talking Heads-inspired eccentricity of ‘Low Light’ and the shades of War on Drugs, The National, and Midlake found on songs like ‘Sliding’, ‘We’re The Immortals’ and ‘Tiny Miracles’, it’s clear that this is a record full of unexpected twists and turns.  And yet, for all the influences on show, there is no doubt that this is a crafted sound that is entirely their own.  Importantly, a real Scottish sensibility is at play too; Hart continuing and developing the neat lyrical colloquialisms established on the first album and running with them to great effect.

“Paul was instrumental in encouraging me to write and sing in a way that was true to myself”, says Hart, “and that in turn gave the band the courage to mark its own territory with a distinct Scottish identity”.

The new album Swithering is due for release on all formats – including limited edition 180g vinyl – on Middle of Nowhere Recordings.

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: http://rhlf.co.uk/

‘Violet’ – official video: