SKIPINNISH – Steer By The Stars (Skipinnish Records SKIPCD28)

Steer By The StarsSkipinnish have had a spectacular couple of years since the release of The Seventh Wave and now, as they celebrate their twentieth anniversary, they find themselves at the top of the tree in contemporary/ traditional Scottish music. Now an octet with Angus Tikka being replaced by Charlotte Printer on bass and fiddler Archie McAllister they press on with a new album, Steer By The Stars, to mark their birthday. Angus MacPhail is still at the helm as principal songwriter with Norrie MacIver on lead vocals and the twin highland bagpipes of Andrew Stevenson and Alasdair Murray. They point out that the band’s youngest member, drummer Rory Grindlay, wasn’t born when the band first got together.

The sea is never far from Skipnnish’s thoughts, either literally or metaphorically and Steer By The Stars is no exception. The anchors of the opening track, ‘Anchors Of The Soul’ are of the latter variety as the song looks to a bright future for the Gaels. The title track combines both – the singer is clearly at sea but is also thinking about the person waiting at the end of his journey. From now on we’re definitely in maritime mood. The first song in Gaelic, ‘Coire Bhreacain’, is written in shanty form and although my Gaelic doesn’t amount to much, I do know that Coire Bhreacain is the Gulf of Corryvreckan, a narrow stretch of water off the northern tip of Jura.

Next is ‘Last Of The Hunters’, one of the big anthemic songs that Skipinnish do so well. It’s a hymn of praise for deep-sea fishermen but Angus isn’t parochial and the name-checks circle the entire British coast. This is a song they’ll be playing until the seas run try. In ‘Land Below The Waves’, Angus writes of the Western Isles and his desire to be out at sea again. It’s back to Gaelic for ‘Thar Sàil (Over The Sea)’, another big song but unless I missed the point, it’s about the ferries that ply the Minch. Although they aren’t named it has to be a nod to CalMac!

‘The Atholl Set’ is the second instrumental track – one for the festival dancers – and we’re just about back on land for ‘Wishing Well’, arranged and produced by Malcolm Jones. It’s what a colleague of ours would call a “swayalong” but I’m greedy enough to want to hear more of Malcolm’s guitar. Phil Cunningham composed ‘The Youngest Ancient Mariner’, a gentle interlude for about a third of its length until the pipes take hold of it. There is a traditional ‘Puirt Set’ next and then ‘Still We Run’ harks back to the thoughts of the opening track. ‘Goodbye’ isn’t completely self-explanatory from the title and finally the band return for a set of jigs.

It only struck me at the end that, in Steer By The Stars, Skipinnish have programmed a live set and then recorded it – with all the ebb and flow you want from a concert. There are several guests, including pupils from two schools on the first track but I should mention Jarlath Henderson, Gordon Gunn and former Runrig keyboard player, Brian Hurren. The guests blend seamlessly and like all good visitors, don’t outstay their welcome. You’ll hear a few bars of whistle or mandolin but only if you don’t let the music sweep you away.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Wishing Well’ – official video:

The 2019 Folking Awards

Welcome to the 2019 Folking Awards and thank you again to everyone who participated this year. The nominations, were in eight categories, and came from our ever-expanding team of writers and were collated into shape by the Folkmeister and the Editor over a pint or two, which also involved, a few arm-wrestles and a spot of beer-mat aerobics, in a convenient local watering hole.

There were five nominees in each category, all of whom have impressed our writers during 2018.

As we said last year, all are winners in our eyes, as are quite a few who didn’t make the short list. However, it’s not just about what we think, so once more, it was down to you, our ever-growing readership, to make the final call.

We will now compile the results and announce the winners of each category at some point next week.

*The Public Vote for each category closed at 9.00pm on Sunday 31st March (GMT+1).


Soloist Of The Year

Keith James
Reg Meuross
Rachel Newton
John Smith
Andy White


Best Duo

Gilmore & Roberts
Daria Kulesh and Jonny Dyer
Ninebarrow
Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar
Winter Wilson


Best Band

The Men They Couldn’t Hang
Merry Hell
Skipinnish
Trials Of Cato
The Young’Uns


Best Live Act

The Men They Couldn’t Hang
Grace Petrie
The Salts
Martin Stephenson & The Daintees
Andy White


Best Album

A Problem Of Our Kind – Gilmore & Roberts
The Well Worn Path – Seth Lakeman
The Joy Of Living – Jackie Oates
Queer As Folk – Grace Petrie
Hide And Hair – Trials Of Cato


Best Musician

Martin Harley
Aidan O’Rourke
Marina Osman
John Smith
Richard Thompson


Rising Star

Burning Salt
Robert Lane
Kitty MacFarlane
Smith & Brewer
Vision Thing


Best International Artist(s)

3hattrio
Tyler Childers
Mary Gauthier
Kíla
Larkin Poe


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Skipinnish re-release Wishing Well in tribute to Eilidh MacLeod

Wishing Well

Released, on download, at midnight on Saturday, 19th May

To help with fundraising for a permanent memorial to Eilidh MacLeod from Barra who was killed in the Manchester Arena Bombing, trad band Skipinnish are releasing a new version their song ‘Wishing Well’. The song was originally written about Eilidh, but it is only recently, after meeting Eilidh’s family that it was decided to make the background of the song known to the public.

Originally composed with a winter theme, a verse has been added and some lyrics changed to give it a year-round theme.

The release of this new version of the song will coincide with the first anniversary of the bombing and with the main fundraising weekend of the group “Team Eilidh” led by Suzanne Whyte, a first cousin of Eilidh’s father. As well as the song release, some of the band are running the Edinburgh Half Marathon on the 27th of May and are joining Suzanne and Team Eilidh to run the Manchester 10K, the week before, to add to the fundraising.

Angus MacPhail, accordionist and founder member of the band who wrote the song said:

“The very first summer that we started the band we spent most of it on Barra and from then on we’ve had huge support over the years from the people of Barra and Vatersay. This is a very small gesture of just doing what we can to help in these terrible circumstances.”

Having stormed to the top of Scotland’s music scene in 2017, selling out every show they played and being named Live Act of the Year at the Trad Awards, Skipinnish are heading for their best year and biggest gig ever. A concert on the 18th of May in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall will mark a milestone in the band’s history and it is at this gig that they will perform the new version of ‘Wishing Well’ for the first time. They will be joined on stage for this piece by World Champion pipers, Inveraray and District Pipe Band and Gaelic Song super-group Cruinn. Angus added:

“Memory is one of the most powerful means of dealing with tragedy and a memorial will hopefully help the family and the island heal together. If the song ‘Wishing Well’ will also help this bright, talented piper and Highland Dancer be remembered, then I’ll be very glad.”

All proceeds from downloads will go to the “Team Eilidh” fundraising group.

Tickets are available through www.skipinnish.com

SKIPINNISH – The Seventh Wave (Skippinish Records SKIPCD26)

The Seventh WaveThe Seventh Wave is the seventh album to be released by Skipinnish and it is possibly one of the most enjoyable albums that I have recently been given the opportunity to review. When I agreed to take on the suicidal responsibility of reviewing new releases I was, unbelievably, excited about it. However, I have been disappointed with many of the albums I have been given, but not so this one. I am not sure if Skipinnish have been taking notes from my reviews but they seem to have “taken some of my advice”.

My Concern No 1 – If you only have 9 tracks to record then you are not ready to release an album Skipinnish – No problem. The Seventh Wave has 14 tracks. My Concern No 2 – Vocals are pushed back and over-powered by aggressive instrumentalisation. Skipinnish – No problem. They include twelve vocal tracks and the voice is always at the front supported by excellent musicianship.

My Concern No 3 – Lack of clarity in the vocals. Skipinnish – No problem. You can easily make out every word of every song. Superb clarity. My Concern No 4 – Groups issuing all of their vocal tracks entirely in Gaelic, a language few of their fans can understand. Skipinnish – No problem. The majority of their vocals are in English with the inclusion of their native Gaelic in acceptable levels.

My Concern No 5 – “Traditional” bands thinking that they are rock bands. Skipinnish – No problem. They are undoubtedly targeting an audience beyond the folk audience but with a professional awareness of the roots they came from. My Concern No 6 – Poor quality sleeves with not enough information about the album. Skipinnish – They provide a booklet with all the words of songs.

I will not go through the album track by track because that is the responsibility of the listener. I will tell you that most of them are simply excellent with two or three excelling even themselves. Skipinnish have included several “choral” backings to tracks and they are beautiful, especially on ‘The Iolaire’ and ‘Walking On The Waves’.

No album will be reviewed by me without some criticism and on this album, it relates to tracks 2, 7 and 13. I cannot stand the sound created by the introduction of “screeching” bagpipes played at an excessive speed supported by simplistic, heavy rock drummers. It is great fun for young, festival fans when played live. It gives them a chance to dance. Personally, I would not have included track 2, ‘The Hag’, as it is difficult to identify Skipinnish from any other folk band using the same instruments. Keep it in for live gigs but it is not great on an album. Strangely, on the final track the pipes are very much part of the effect but played sensitively and beautifully.

I am sure everybody who buys this album will love it and it is easy to fast forward track 2. It is unlikely you will fast forward any of the other tracks, maybe track 13. It is a great CD, so nip out and buy it.

Fraser Bruce

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‘The Island’ – official video:

Skipinnish announce seventh album

Skipinnish

In the world of lore and legend, the seventh wave was bigger and more powerful than all gone before.  This, the seventh album, from Skipinnish, epitomizes that theme perfectly.  With Norrie MacIver’s distinct vocal taking on the lead and with a few other transfers and additions, this is the band’s biggest and boldest production yet.  The changes in line-up mean three renewed Skipinnish classics joining five new self-penned songs, a tribute to Runrig, three rocketing tune sets and a haunting slow air.

The Seventh Wave comes as the band’s own wave of popularity continues its powerful rise. With four consecutive chart topping single releases and sell-out shows across the country, Skipinnish have rocketed to the top of the trad music scene and their ascent is accelerating.  Their latest single, ‘Alive’,  which is the first track on the album, hit Number 26 in the mainstream UK download charts, which for a traditional band is a mighty achievement. Only Runrig and Capercaillie having been higher.

It was said that water taken from the seventh wave had properties of healing and invigoration.  It is predicted that this music will have a similar effect on those who ride the waves of life listening to Skipinnish.

Fans are also scrabbling for tickets to their live shows, with most of their album launch tour, in May, sold out already.  The official release will be at the band’s 1000 seat Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, concert on Friday May 19th – tickets all disappeared for this gig, in December, just days after going on went on sale!!!!

Albums are available for pre-release order from the Skipinnish website and will be on sale at all other concerts throughout May.

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


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Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


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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://www.skipinnish.com/

‘Alive’ – official video:

SINGLES BAR 16

A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 16We’re a bit late with this one but we can’t let the year turn without a mention of ANGE HARDY’s Christmas single. There are two tracks, both original compositions and both sung acapella. ‘The Quantock Carol’ should immediately go into every seasonal repertoire – it’s a plea for peace now and in the future, a simple and beautiful song. ‘Mary’s Robin’ is based on the Gaelic legend about how the robin got its red breast and should be snapped up by unaccompanied groups and community choirs everywhere.
http://www.angehardy.com/

CRAIG FINN has a new album, We All Want the Same Things, out in March preceded by a single ‘Preludes’. Finn grew up in Edina, Minneapolis and describes ‘Preludes’ as “this was what I remember 1994 being like, coming back to the Twin Cities after being away for college.” ‘Preludes’ gives us snapshot of this time in life: “I came back to St Paul’s and things had progressed and got strange”; images of his friends who have moved away to Seattle while he is back in the hometown hitting the bars; of a guy who jumped out at him with a pistol (“I considered my options and decided to do what he said”); and, above all, “I got stuck in a snowbank, I was too drunk to drive to a diner/ Right there was proof of my faith that God watches us”, leading to the refrain which permeates and ends the song “God watches us”. It sounds heavy, but it’s not. The musical feel is reminiscent of the driving energy of the Counting Crows and it’s a fun song capturing that time of life in your early twenties when you return home after time away and re-evaluate your relationship with your home town and family.
http://www.craigfinn.net/

Don’t look for JAKE ISLAND on a map – you won’t find it. Jake is a he: a singer/songwriter/ producer from County Meath. He’s rather modest about what he does on his EP Kindest Of Our Days, listing musicians including featured vocalists Rowan and Driver 66. The four songs here are a sort of Irish-Americana with banjo, fiddle, flute and whistles as well as the standard guitar-bass-drums trinity. There’s an odd melancholy about the music. ‘Last Drunk In Town’ and ‘Lose The Love’ should be sung in a late-night bar and ‘Horizon Blues’ is the story of an old musician reminiscing and perhaps thinking about a comeback tour. The title track, which opens the set, is the most upbeat of the collection but even here there is nostalgia in the strictest sense: a pain and regret for what is past. There are four great songs here.
www.jakeisland.co.uk

‘Alive’ is a download only single from Scottish band SKIPINNISH. It opens as a gentle piano-based meditation on the blessing of being alive complete with angelic backing vocals, something of a reaction to 2016 you might think. At the minute mark it takes off with drums, fiddle and electric guitar before almost settling into a meditative mood – fooled you, they were just gearing up for a big finish. “You’re alive, you’re alive and the stars are on your side” is a good thought to begin the year with.
http://www.skipinnish.com/