GRAHAM MACKENZIE – The Dawning (Blue Door Music)

The DawningAs the gentle notes of Jim Molyneaux’s piano and Innes Watson’s almost funky acoustic guitar open the album you feel that The Dawning may be an album where folk music and jazz intertwine. Graham Mackenzie has form in this area, after all, but it seems that the two styles are content to wave to each other in greeting as though circling at a party.

The opening set, ‘The Contradiction Reels’, is one that is always around in one form and, indeed, Dan Walsh has just extracted the title tune for his new album.  After the deceptive intro it settles into some solid Scottish fiddling. Graham has benefitted from classical training and most of the tunes here are his original compositions. The second set, ‘Earn River’, are slow jigs which seem more suited to the front parlour than the ceilidh floor but then ‘Bridge Street Reels’ introduce Neil Yates’ brass and the result is perhaps more funky than jazzy.

‘Belmaduthy’ takes us in yet another direction: two pretty, lyrical tunes the first of which is named for a French restaurant in Inverness. ‘The Road To Monalea’ is a set of mostly traditional Irish reels, picking up the pace again and once more featuring the continuo of Molyneaux and Watson with more decoration from Yates. ‘Ardtun’ was written on and about the Isle Of Mull and gives James Lindsay’s bass its moment in the spotlight, leaning more towards jazz. Graham continues the lyrical mood with ‘Cula Bay’, a lovely track with a wonderfully complex arrangement.

‘The Beatons Of Mabou’ takes us to Cape Breton with two tunes written by Andrea Beaton and the traditional ‘West Mabou Reel’. ‘Josh’s Jig’ is another set of three originals and to close the set we have James Ross Riddell’s best known jig, ‘Kirkhill’.

There are some fine tunes in The Dawning but what sets it apart are the arrangements. They are sometimes bright and brash but more often quiet and thoughtful. Played by some of Scotland’s best musicians and with Michael McGoldrick sharing the production credits, you wouldn’t expect anything less.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘The Road To Monalea’: