Words by Jo Frost
On the eve of the Scottish independence vote, what better time to highlight some of our current favourite Scottish albums?
Martyn Bennett – Grit (Real World Gold, 2014)
Recently reissued including two previously unreleased tracks, this album by the late young Scottish maverick is a testament to his spirit and untamed musical approach to mixing up traditional Gaelic songs with techno beats. This is an album to get you bouncing around the kitchen, try out the track on this issue’s covermount CD.
Breabach – Ùrlar (Breabach Records, 2013)
Recently featured as part of Boomerang (in #101), together with indigenous Maori and Aboriginal musicians, the young quintet have deservedly proved themselves worthy recipients of the Scots Trad Music Award for Best Group. Their combination of new and traditional material, bagpipes and vocals has proved a winning formula. Reviewed in #98.
Capercaillie – At the Heart of it All (Vertical Records, 2013)
The doyens of the Scottish trad scene, who celebrated their 30th anniversary at this year’s Celtic Connections festival. Lead singer Karen Matheson and husband Donald Shaw recently featured in the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony, proving they’re still very much at the forefront of Scottish music. Reviewed in #96.
Duncan Chisholm – Live at Celtic Connections (Copperfish, 2013)
It is very difficult to single out one album from Chisholm’s superb Strathglass Trilogy (Affric, Farrar, Canaich), so instead try this live album of the fiddler performing tracks from all three albums together with his band, at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery during Celtic Connections. Coincidentally Duncan Chisholm also features on Benedetti’s latest album, see p36. Reviewed in #98.
Julie Fowlis – Gach Sgeul – Every Story (Machair Records, 2014)
A Songlines cover star earlier this year (#99), the Gaelic singer also features on Benedetti’s album, performing a traditional waulking song. Fowlis’ latest release stays true to the very heart of the Gaelic tradition and it’s a beautiful collection of songs, showcasing her talent in puirt à beul – the incredibly fast ‘mouth music’ vocal style from the Highlands. Reviewed in #99.
Lau – Race the Loser (Reveal Records, 2012)
OK, admittedly they’re only two-thirds Scottish but accordionist Martin Green is practically a Scot, having lived north of the border for some time. The trio excel when it comes to their thrilling live performances, winning them numerous Radio 2 Folk Awards. This latest offering is as innovative and exciting as their debut, Lightweights & Gentlemen. Reviewed in #88.
Karine Polwart – Traces (Hegri Records, 2012)
There’s something about Polwart’s understated yet poignant singing that really hooks you in. Beautiful melodies and incisive lyrics on songs inspired by subjects as diverse as the Occupy movement protests to Donald Trump’s controversial golf course plans. One of Scotland’s finest contemporary songwriters, Polwart also gets brownie points for her love of birds – Hegri, the name of her label, is the Gaelic word for heron. Reviewed in #87.
Patsy Reid – The Brightest Path (Classy Trad Records, 2014)
The young fiddler cut her teeth with Breabach, but since leaving the group, she’s become one of the UK’s most in-demand musicians, with appearances in the Cecil Sharp Project, VAMM and Kathryn Tickell’s Northumbrian Voices project. Her latest solo release sees her mixing up both self-written and traditional material and also showcases her fine vocal skills too. Reviewed in #99.
Salsa Celtica – The Tall Islands (Discos Leon, 2014)
And now for something completely different – Scottish ceilidh meets Latino salsa. The pioneering group started off as a bunch of mates jamming in a club in Edinburgh (see Beginner’s Guide in #98) and since then they’ve got audiences up and dancing around the world, most recently in Colombia where they made their debut appearance earlier this year. An album guaranteed to get you in a party mood. Reviewed in #99.
Various Artists – Transatlantic Sessions 6 (Whirlie Records, 2014)
Again, not a strictly purely Scottish affair, but the incredibly successful concept of bringing a range of leading folk musicians from the UK and Ireland together with a host of talent from across the pond was masterminded by Shetland fiddler Aly Bain. Plus the recording sessions take place in the Highlands. If you’re a fan of the BBC TV series, then you’ll love this album – the latest release that highlights why the series is the best music programme on TV and has been such a hit. Reviewed in #99.