The Woods is the third album in Hamish Napier’s Strathspey Pentalogy and it’s nothing less than a musical journey through the woodlands around Grantown-on-Spey where Hamish lives and along the valley of the river. Literally so in some cases as co-producer Andrea Gobbi has woven into the music field recordings: the flowing river, birdsong, the roar of stags and even the sounds of an axe and a cross-cut saw. In fact, the final track is just the sound of male capercaillies displaying at dawn during the mating season.
This is a gorgeous album – I’ll say that now in case I get carried away later. Hamish is a well-known composer who plays keyboards and a number of whistles and flutes and he wrote all the music here except for a canntaireachd lyric by Calum MacCrimmon. He embraces all the styles of Scottish traditional music from slow air and pibroch to polka. The booklet is lavish and just about the most informative I’ve ever seen, packed with history and folklore. Each of the major trees described is identified by a letter of the Gaelic tree alphabet – go to Hamish’s website for more on that – but other forest flora and fauna are also featured. Did you know, for example, that holly makes a good lightening conductor and was often planted near houses and castles? Neither did I.
Hamish is supported by the cream of Scottish musicians: Steve Byrnes and James Lindsay provide the rhythmic foundation; Jarlath Henderson and Ross Ainslie add pipes and Innes Watson and Su-a Lee provide the strings. Appropriately enough, Su-a also plays a musical saw. I realise that I haven’t been specific about any of the tracks but the way the music flows renders that rather irrelevant.
Artist’s website: www.hamishnapier.com
Enjoy the music and the landscape while Hamish explains what The Woods is all about: