BREABACH – Frenzy Of The Meeting (Breabach Records, BRE005CD)

Frenzy Of The MeetingHaving toured the world, won awards and created an immensely successful album, Astar, zinging with creative fusion, what would Breabach do next? Judging by their latest album, Frenzy Of The Meeting, released in late October, the answer seems to be to find a revitalised inspiration in the traditional music of home.

Never a band to stand still, Frenzy Of The Meeting finds Breabach testing new waters once again. As usual, tracks were initially laid down live in the studio in order to capture the band’s essential sound. The band then enhanced these tracks during further studio sessions, in collaboration with producer Eamon Doorley. The final result is still absolutely Breabach, but in a subtly fleshed out way.

Starting with Bonnie Prince Charlie landing on a chilly beach on Eriskay, the low-slung guitar and bass of ‘Princes Strand’ provide solid ground for a rather wistful tune carried by whistles and pipes, as well as forming the link to ‘Knees Up’. This uplifting two-tune set pits ferocious piping against Megan Henderson’s soaring vocals.

Delicate bouzouki wreathes through ‘Winter Winds’, Calum MacCrimmon’s utterly beautiful song comparing the changing weather to the healing nature of time, “give it time and the sky will change”. Sharply switching mood, the stomping opening to ‘Western Isle Dance’ pairs a lively traditional tune with James Lindsay’s more reflective musing on the nature of alternative facts.

Ewan Robertson and Michael Farrell’s thoughtful ‘Birds Of Passage’, inspired by Longfellow’s poem of the same name, contemplates aspects of migration, its upwardly spiralling instrumentation mirroring the lyrics. The ballsy, sinuous ‘Google This’ follows, intriguingly paired with a traditional waulking song which sounds like it shouldn’t work, although – of course – it does.

The title track, ‘Frenzy Of The Meeting’ opening with a deep bowed bass and lithe fiddle bubbling over mouth harp, is a darkly delicious meshing of Henderson’s tune ‘Incahoots’ with the low chant of a traditional Ceòl Mòr. The album wraps up with ‘Oran Bhraigh Rusgaich’ which builds on its core of atmospheric harmonium drone, airy reverb and sparse guitar into a grand climactic finale, leaving just a trace of whistles hanging on the air.

Frenzy Of The Meeting may not have quite the same immediacy as its predecessor, but it has a satisfying deep richness and texture all of its own. It’s a fascinating new development in Breabach’s work, building yet more layers, more experiment and versatility into their sound.

To see this album in live performance, catch Breabach on tour around the UK now and until February 2019.

Su O’Brien

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‘Birds Of Passage’ – official video:

IAIN MACFARLANE – Gallop To Callop (Old Laundry Productions OLP005)

Gallop To CallopIain 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.

Dai Jeffries

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Iain MacFarlane and Ingrid Henderson. No title (or could it be called ‘Hello’?)

BREABACH – Astar (Breabach BRE004CD)

BREABACH AstarWith most albums it’s good to have the sleeve notes to hand when listening. With Breabach’s sixth outing an atlas is just as important. Astar means distance or journey in Gaelic and the musical ideas are drawn from all round the world.

The album opens with ‘The Midnight Sun’ written by piper James Duncan Mackenzie and inspired by a visit he paid to Tromso to run a marathon on midsummers day when the sun never actually sets. It begins with an oddly oriental sound, presumably an attempt to imitate the sound of a kantele. That is followed by a set of three compositions inspired by the rhythms of the Haka. The parts of ‘Muriwai’ are written by Calum MacCrimmon, Scott Morrison and Mackenzie.

There is brief return to Scotland with Dick Gaughan’s ‘Outlaws And Dreamers’ before we’re off to Scandinavia again with ‘Farsund’, the title track of the medley being composed by Megan Henderson. The third part of the medley is the first traditional tune on the album, ‘Wee Totum Fog’, which itself has an interesting history. ‘Mo Thruaighe Leir Thu ‘Ille Bhuidhe’ gives Megan her first lead vocal of the collection and then we’re off again, this time to Australia. ‘The White Sands Of Jervis Bay’ begins with a ceremonial song from the Aborigine tradition called ‘Guka Manikay’ while MacCrimmon and Mackenzie composed the title piece. It’s interesting to note that no-one seems to have come up with a more politically correct term for the original inhabitants of Australia.

‘Les Pieds Joyeaux’ is inspired by the Quebeçois tradition even though the tunes themselves are Scottish – Le Vent Du Nord join Breabach on vocals for this one. Then there is a visit to the Hebrides for a waulking song and a tune inspired by the waulking rhythm. It would be appropriate to stay in Scotland now but Ewan Robertson’s ‘Ribbon Of Fire’ is a song inspired by the band’s tour of the antipodes and ‘The Last March’ takes us to Cape Breton.

Astar is an album full of musical imagery and imagination – a melting pot of ideas that is varied and satisfying. This could be Beabach’s best.

Dai Jeffries

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Breabach live on their 2015 Highland Blast tour:

Breabach’s new album is on the way

Breabach's new album is on the way

Release Date Friday, 11th March, 2016

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.

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Breabach: New Album – Ùrlar

urlarFINALAfter 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

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Distribution- Proper Distribution & Highlander Distribution

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Folking at Cambridge Folk Festival 2013 – Day 3

wb3_300Those following this blog will know that it would not be complete without an early morning campsite folking shower report – although those on-site would have had a deluge of their own later in the day when KT “rain goddess” Tunstall took to the stage and opened the heavens – but more on that later. My first shower was at 5.00am, an hour earlier than the day before! Perhaps it was the excitement of the previous 2 days, or perhaps it was just the the showers but Cambridge was not awarding me much sleep.

Breabach danceAs I was finishing the day 2 blog We Banjo 3 took to the main stage, a quintet from Galway playing Irish, bluegrass and American old time music. From what I saw on the #CFF13 @CamFolkFest twitter feed they were definitely making many instant fans and got Saturday stage 1 off to a rousing start. Next up were the mighty Breabach, a tour de force in the Scottish music scene. They had a great array of weaponry on hand including: highland bagpipes, fiddle, guitar, double bass, mandolin, bazouki and even included a set dance by fiddle payer, Megan Henderson.

Saturday Cambs FF CrowdBoth SOC (Son of Clicker – the folking photographer) and I knew that getting to see everything today was going to be tough with all 3 stages in full swing. In fact panic set in and we ran around like headless chickens for a bit until coming to our senses and catching the end of the Festival Session, hosted by Battlefield Band and Feast of Fiddles academic legend Brian McNeil. This was a one off line-up featuring: The Chair, Frigg, The Rambling Boys of Pleasure, Radio 2 young folk award winners Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar, Martin Simpson, Le Vent du Nord and We Banjo 3 again.

Hop and a skip back to the Stage 1 to see Martin Simpson performing a guitar master class wrapped up in his usual exemplary solo set kind of way which included favourites like the you were never any good with money gem Prodigal Son and Jackie and Murphy, a story song of an epic true tale of bravery, donkeys and Gallipoli.

Thea Gilmore CFFManaged to then catch the end of the talented and velvet voiced Heidi Talbot on stage 2 as she left us all going up and down her music tree, Korrontzi from Northern Spain were next up and made you feel part of a Basque hill town knees up for a short while (it was great to see Thea Gilmore dancing along to them back stage). It wasn’t long until Thea took center stage with her full band line up which included producer, husband and multi-instrumentalist Nigel Stonier. Thea definitely showed off her folk credentials by giving us a faultless performance of Pity the Poor Immigrant. Thea then belted out the Radio 2 A listed song Start As We Mean To Go On, before ending with what for me was the highlight of the day, a perfect rendition to the stunning London with her little lad taking center stage on the fiddle. Sandy Denny who wrote the lyrics to this song is my folk heroine and Thea is equally addictive.

There was only one way to come down and that was to head over to the club tent and catch State Of The Union, aka Boo Hewerdine and Brooks Williams. In the grand tradition of ‘The Special Relationship’, State Of The Union combines the talents of America and England, producing an end result that delighted the club tent crowd with hook-laden songs, fiery and emotional guitar playing and soulful vocals. By this time I had a few jars of Ringwood’s finest Boon Doggle ale and was amusing myself by keeping the girls at the bar on their toes and coming up with different names for it. The firm favourite was Moon Poodle!

Fully Protected & The Moon PoodleThe Moon Poodle was listening as the heavens opened and the poodle piddled down on us as KT Tunstall hit the stage. A great set followed, my favourite being Other Side of the World or dark side of the poodle moon by the Black horse and a cherry tree, no that one actually came later… but don’t blame it on the Sunshine, don’t blame it on the moonlight, blame it on the Boggle. I was past caring as I was now focused on keeping the umbrella in the right place for KT’s Mexican “brella” wave!

I caught a bit of the Mavericks but it was definitely time to head back to Coldham’s before I did myself mischief…

The folkmaster