CHARLIE GREY AND JOSEPH PEACH – Air Iomall (Braw Sailin’ Records CD007BSR)

Air IomallLast August Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach set sail on the tall ship Wylde Swan to visit five uninhabited islands off the west coast of Scotland: the Shiant Isles, North Rona, the Flannan Isles, Sula Sgeir and St Kilda. The journey was filmed by Hamish Macleod, the result to be premiered in Glasgow on August 21st, but before then we have Air Iomall, the music inspired by the journey and a reliable atlas and history of western Scotland will be of assistance or, failing that, Wikipedia.

The opening track, ‘The Big Islands’, is a setting-out tune, starting slowly but picking up speed as the ship catches the wind. Big is a relative term but I think it refers to Harris and Lewis, passed as Wylde Swan heads north. Charlie’s fiddle melody supported by Joseph’s piano before he takes over on accordion. Their first destination is depicted in ‘Donald MacLeod, King Of North Rona’. Donald, the last resident of the island left for Lewis in 1844 and the island remains uninhabited although sheep are still run there.

‘Ducat, Marshall, And The Occasional’ is a lament for the disappearance of three keepers from the Flannan Isles lighthouse in 1900. No trace was ever found of the two permanent crew; James Ducat and Thomas Marshall nor of Donald McArthur (the Occasional or rotating crewman) although an investigation revealed some strange entries in the log. ‘Sula Sgeir’ might translate as Suleskerry but this is an up-tempo fiddle set with no hint of selkies. ‘The Cliffs Of Conachair’ finds the ship at St Kilda, uninhabited since 1930 and ‘The Wylde Swan’ is another jolly tune, presumably to celebrate their safe arrival.

I must say that I’ve enjoyed reading about the history of these tiny specks of land as I’ve listened to Air Iomall and I can tell that Charlie and Joseph were as much influenced by that history as by the landscapes. Finally we have the eighteen-minute ‘Live On St Kilda’, a concert set of the music performed, presumably, for the crew of the Wylde Swan and, no doubt, the seabirds for which the island is famous. Unique is an overused word but I think that in the case of this project, it is justified.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.cgjpmusic.com

The Air Iomall film is safely under wraps until its premiere but here’s some film of Charlie and Joseph on stage earlier last year:

Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach release new album and film

Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach

Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach make music on the piano and fiddle. They are Scottish folk musicians, creating music filled with spontaneity, sensitivity and freedom. Inspiration comes from their past and surroundings, feeding music that’s rooted in tradition, whilst stretching its possibilities through improvisation and imagination.

Following the release of their debut album Waves Rise From Quiet Water, the duo reached the finals of the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award. Notable performances include a live BBC Radio 2 broadcast from the Royal Albert Hall, Cambridge Folk Festival, Celtic Connections, and Festival Interceltique de Lorient, as well as making music for theatre in Findhorn Bay Festival’s original production The Buke Of The Howlat.

Outwith their duo, Charlie and Joe are members of Tannara, The Iona Fyfe Band, Westward the Light.

Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach release Air Iomall (pronounced ‘air im-al’ and Scottish Gaelic for “On the Edge”) on August 9, a suite of new music born from a journey to now uninhabited islands deep in the North Atlantic – some of Scotland’s most remote and remarkable places. The album will be available on all major streaming platforms, CD and vinyl.

Grey and Peach travelled aboard the Dutch tall ship Wylde Swan with filmmaker Hamish MacLeod, who documented the trip for the accompanying Air Iomall film, and wrote music inspired by the histories, people, and landscapes of these mysterious, wild locations.

The film follows the duo on this once in a lifetime experience, providing a visually stunning, sensitive insight into these under-documented and enigmatic landscapes. It culminates with a concert of their new music on St Kilda – the most remote part of the UK, on the 88th anniversary of the evacuation of its native population. That live performance is captured in its entirety on the album.

Pre-orders open on June 11: www.cgjpmusic.bandcamp.com

Film trailer:

Air Iomall Trailer from Charlie Grey and Joseph Peach on Vimeo.

TANNARA – Strands (Braw Sailin’ Records CD006BSR)

StrandsAfter their impressive debut, Trig, Tannara could have headed into folk-rock territory – Owen Sinclair played a mean electric guitar. Alternatively, they could have turned back to their roots and with Robbie Greig coming in to replace Cameron Ross on fiddle it seems that was the direction they chose. Although all the tracks on Strands are originals (with a couple of borrowings), the band’s second outing is a more thoughtful affair. Mattie Foulds is still in place as recording engineer and occasional percussionist but Sinclair and Joseph Peach have taken over production duties.

The first track, ‘Smiling’ comprises two tunes ending in a field recording of running water which lead in the first song, ‘The Next Station Is’, which begins with voices discussing something or perhaps nothing. The songwriter and vocalist is Sinclair and the song could have been rocked up but, although there are some interesting sounds bubbling away underneath the song is lead by acoustic guitar, fiddle and accordion. It ends with a big finish without ever getting out of hand.

Peach’s ‘Good Ship’ is dedicated to Sinclair and then comes Becca Skeoch’s first contribution – not delicate harp pieces although her harp is there over the underlying keyboards and drums – but something rather modern with Greig’s fiddle as much to the fore as the harp. There’s just a touch of the grungy sound that they employed on Trig. The second song is ‘Spent Lees’, a melancholy piece again by Sinclair with Peach’s keyboards and lots of strings.

Tannara have succeeded in bringing traditional influences together with modern ideas in a way that doesn’t jar. Traditional sounding tunes pop up playfully among arrangements which are definitely modern without being outré. The final track, ‘Jutland’, with words by Les Sullivan given a very traditional tune by Sinclair, begins with the voice of Danny MacLachlan, a survivor of the battle recorded in a very formal style in 1970. The song is punctuated by the sound of Morse code and ends with Tom Anderson reminiscing about survivors watching film of the battle in their later years. It’s a modern approach while still being respectful to the past and that’s what Tannara do. I applaud them for it.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Spent Lees’ – official video:

Tannara announce new album

Tannara

2019 will be the biggest year yet for Tannara, with the release of their second album Strands at the Celtic Connections Festival 2019. The album represents a significant development for the band who have spent the past two years writing and recording this superb work.

The album was produced by Owen Sinclair and accordionist Joseph Peach, with input and guidance from Lau’s Martin Green. They’ve created a whole world around the band’s music; of found sounds and samples, synthesisers, and guest performances from Mattie Foulds on percussion and Josie Duncan on backing vocals

Following the album release, the band are set for a busy year of doing what they love best-performing- with UK tours taking place in March and September, a summer of festival appearances, and touring in mainland Europe in November.

Bold, creative, and original; Tannara (Owen Sinclair, Robbie Greig, Becca Skeoch and Joseph Peach) have established themselves as one of the UK’s most interesting and unique contemporary folk groups.

Formed in 2014, the band came about as a natural extension of the four members’ love of making music together. Fuelled by this, they’ve covered considerable musical ground over the past five years. With a background in Scotland’s native traditions, their ceaseless musical development is a melting pot of ideas, genres and sounds: From indie rock to electronica, as well as Scotland’s vibrant and diverse folk scene.

Unafraid to experiment, their music is an electrifying meeting place for a world of sounds: Punchy and clean, riotous and gritty, tender and honest. On fiddle, harp, guitar, accordion and vocals, Tannara make an intensely considered musical world which is uniquely theirs.

Their debut album Trig was released in 2016. Produced by Rachel Newton, their first offering as a band was a raw, joyous, reflection of a band finding its sound.

It was received to great acclaim, from critics and audiences alike. Described by Living Tradition Magazine as “Simply Outstanding”, it was longlisted for “Album of the Year” at the 2016 Scots Trad Music Awards, the same year in which the band were nominated for “Up and Coming Artist of the Year”.

From open air festivals, to intimate house concerts, and everything in between, the band love playing live. A fact that’s reflected by their so far busy schedule of performances and radio appearances across Europe, with highlights including Cambridge Folk Festival, and Festival Interceltique de Lorient, a performance described as “Firey and Graceful” by The Herald.

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‘Spent Lees’ – official video:

THE FAR FLUNG COLLECTIVE – Far Flung Corners (Anna-Wendy Music FFC001)

Far Flung CornersOriginally a schools-based music education project by the University of the Highlands and Islands in collaboration with Soundstorm Music Education Agency exploring the similarities and differences, past and present, between the cultural and physical landscapes of South West England and the Scottish Outer Hebrides, this evolved into Far Flung Corners,  a fully-fledged artistic collaboration between the musicians involved. Uist-based Anna-Wendy Stevenson and Simon Bradley on fiddle and viola, respectively, were joined by music students Mabel Duncan, Tom Campbell, Jordan Neil and Joseph Peach from Lews Castle College and, from Dorset, singer-songwriter Alex Roberts and pianist Dan Somogyi, the ensemble launching the collaboration with a performance at this year’s Celtic Connections.

Now comes the album, a collection of songs, tunes and spoken word, seven of which form ‘Suite Uist’, a homage to the islands to celebrate 15 years of music education at Lews Castle College, inspired by traditional Gaelic music and song and composed by Stevenson, the University’s Programme Leader.

Interspersed throughout the album, the first part comes with ‘Caismeachd Bho Bhlàr Chàirinis’, a fiddle and flute led melancholic slow march named for the a clans battle in North Uist, the last to be fought with bows and arrows on British soil. Again built around fiddle and a trilling flute ‘Baleshare Rowing Song’ is a relatively jaunty tune recalling what was once the main means of transport between the islands. This is followed by ‘Se Saoghal Beag A Th’Ann (It’s A Small Word)’, Somogyi’s minimal piano accompanying Stevenson spoken poetic portrait of the people and places of Uist, its mention of birdlife leading on to ‘Ruidhle Do Steàrnan Beag,’ a gradually gathering reel in celebration of the Little Tern, one of the many species that nest on Uist during the breeding season.

A second slow march comes with ‘A’ Fàgail Na Dachaigh (Leaving Home)’, a tune in memory of the many Uist residents how were forced to leave the island during the Highland clearances, many relocating to Canada, the USA and Australia, the melody both melancholic and hopeful. Featuring Stevenson’s percussive scat vocal, fiddle, accordion and Campbell’s flute, picking up the tempo as it goes, ‘Udal Waulking Song’ captures the process of shrinking tweed cloth at Udal in North Uist. The final track from the Suite is ‘Failte’, a rousing fiddle, flute and guitar driven number that, translating as Welcome, celebrates Hebridean hospitality.

Save for the closing piano and viola instrumental, Somogyi and Bradley’s ‘Road To Eriskay’ and, with Roberts harmonizing and accompanied by guitar, flute, fiddle and accordion, Stevenson’s lovely reading of Matt McGinn’s lilting ‘The Rolling Hills O’The Borders’, the other numbers are penned and sung by Roberts. Backdropped by sparse piano and fiddle, he opens the album with another small world poem, the spoken ‘I’ll Carry Your Song In My Heart’ and follows with his dreamily nostalgic rippling guitar setting of ‘Linden Lea’, William Barnes’s poem about his Dorset childhood.

The vocals gathering power midway, ‘The Jolly Boat’ is a lazing single fingerpicked guitar and fiddle ballad that captures the warmth of the fire and whisky that fuelled its writing on his first visit to Uist. A more robust piece, his final contribution is ‘Hacking Back To The Wild’, an urgent bluesy folk number that, featuring flute and bouzouki, draws on the relationship between man and the peregrine falcon in a call for the preservation and protection of nature.

Projects such as this can sometimes have a rather niche audience, but this, as the name suggests, deserves to be heard and celebrated far and wide.

Mike Davies

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The Far Flung Collective and Fuaran at Celtic Connections:

TANNARA – Trig (Braw Sailin’ Records CD001BSR)

TrigHere is yet another fine young band coming out of Scotland with a song on their lips and a tune in their hearts. We think this album is called Trig – that little symbol on the cover, see. Actually it’s written on the spine but I don’t believe anything I read these days and that little tease seems typical of their approach. Rooted in the tradition but not in thrall to it.

At the heart of the band are the traditional instruments you would expect but it’s the other instruments and how they are used that strikes you first. In ‘Two Birds, No Stones’, for example, there is the juxtaposition of  Becca Skeoch’s harp with a grungy electric guitar from Owen Sinclair who also wrote the tune which is paired here with Andy Cutting’s ‘Archie The Flying Beast’. Owen is also the band’s vocalist and they have put together a strange and haunting version of ‘Three Ravens’, not at text I’ve heard before and one in which the doe is replaced by a lady. The other two songs, ‘When First I Came To Caledonia’ and ‘Queen Jane’ are also given imaginative treatments in which Joseph Peach’s piano and Fender Rhodes feature.

Cameron Ross’ fiddle is the mainstay of the instrumental sound and he contributes one tune ‘Deid Fish’ (yes, there is a story there) but it’s the interplay between the instruments that’s crucial – a tribute to the recording skills of Mattie Foulds and the production of Rachel Newton who, I’m sure, ensured that the harp was never swamped even with everything else that’s going on around it.

I never cease to be astonished by the young talent emerging from Scotland – perhaps I should take it for granted by now – but Trig merely confirms that the process is ongoing. And I always find something new to enjoy.

Dai Jeffries

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Tannara live in Antwerp – a compilation: