Aug 122018

Duncan Harley reviews  Far, Far From Ypres at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen.

It’s difficult to adequately classify Far, Far From Ypres.

Described as “the story of the Scottish war effort during World War One” with “its excitement, hope, suffering, endurance, humour, fear and disillusionment in the face of horror told through the eyes of fictional, prototypical soldier Jimmy MacDonald” this ambitious multimedia production sits oddly – and please excuse the pun – with its feet astride two camps.

A strong documentary-styled historical narrative, delivered by veteran broadcaster Iain Anderson, frames a broad range of popular song from the period whilst overhead a mix of trench imagery combines to add poignancy to the performance.

We are told that the fictional Jimmy is from any town or village in Scotland and that when issued with his tin hat and his rifle, he heads off to the continent in search of medals for the victory parade and of course for a great foreign adventure.

An acceptable figure for Scottish war dead has yet to be calculated – some put it at between 100,000 and 146,000 – and the enthusiastic Jimmy is portrayed as one of those who did not return.

Killed in France or Belgium, not by bullets nor by shells but by an influenza better known as Spanish Flu, he certainly died in uniform but is probably not numbered amongst the roll of the war dead.

Based on a Greentrax double album of WW1 songs, “Far, Far From Ypres” is laden with familiar and not so familiar song.

Within the context of the narrative, most are a good fit for the performance and most are delivered strongly by a cast of largely familiar folk-figures. Barbara Dickson, Dick Gaughan, Alan Prior, Tam Ward, Ian McCalman and Mairi MacInnes are just to name a few.

In fact, there are around 27 performers on stage at any one time making for a crowded performance space and indeed a difficult place for the soloists to excel in.

It was perhaps the male dominated chorus which brought the intent of the production solidly home. Decidedly appropriate and atmospheric of the era, Pack up your Troubles and When this Bloody War is Over vied with Tipperary and Armentieres to tug the heartstrings.

All in all, this is a largely successful attempt to track and trace changing perceptions during the course of that First War to end all wars through the songs of the day.

From hopeful beginnings through to eventual despair, the song list bravely traverses some four years of the bloody history of that hundred-year-old conflict in which young men could take the boat-train to the continent, stick a bayonet into the skull of a youngish man from a neighbouring land and, if he were lucky enough not to be stuck in his turn, return home with a medal in time for the local victory parade.

At the close of the night and indeed during the performance, not a few tears were shed.
Stars: (4/5)

Following last night’s performance at HMT, Far, Far From Ypres heads off to Oban, Skye, Ullapool, Stirling, Inverness, Dumfries and Edinburgh.

Jul 282018

By Duncan Harley.

To my complete surprise and astonishment that’s a short story of mine heading towards the Aberdeen stage in a few weeks. And I have to say that I am humbled.

A call for entries came via Rachel Campbell at APA and after a day or so I got to thinking that, although I have no realistic idea regarding how to even pronounce Ypres, I do have an intimate store of first war recollections albeit at second, third or even at fourth hand. 

A grandfather, now long missed, left a family story regarding his first war experience.

A regimental quartermaster, or so he had us all believe, he recalled only that following a long and muddy march through France and then Belgium he played some football then marched all the way back to Glasgow. 

I have his war medals and one at least appears to be a military medal plus bar from his Black Watch experience.

Based on a Greentrax double album of WW1 songs, Far, Far from Ypres is an acclaimed production of songs, poems and stories, following the terrifying journey of a Scot to “the trenches” and back. 

A Scottish squaddie heads off to the continental adventure and is given a tin hat and a rifle in anticipation of heroic deeds and victory over the unwholesome Hun. Told largely in songs of the day, the performance lays bare the squalid fate of the boy next door who marched off to adventure amongst the jaws of death.

I concluded my recent book – The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire – with a tale, not of the trenches, but of the unexpected bombing of the Garioch by the young men of the Kaiser’s Zeppelin squadrons and Ann Wells of seems intent on sharing my tale.

She writes:

“Many thanks for sharing this with us.  I knew about the Edinburgh raids but had never heard tell about those further north.  Enemy or not these guys were incredibly brave to venture up in those things.

“I would like to add this into the programme for the performance at Aberdeen and possibly Dundee and/or Inverness.  Is that OK?  We are starting to get quite a few stories in now, really interesting tales, but this one is slightly different.”

Naturally I replied in the positive and my tale of the 1916 Zeppelin night-time terror-bombing of the Garioch features somewhere in amongst the programme for the night.

The blurb for the performance informs only that:

“The show features the large screen projection of relevant images throughout the evening, enhancing greatly the audience’s understanding of the story unfolding before them. The format of the evening takes the form of two fifty-minute halves with an interval.

“It has a cast of ‘folk singing stars’, who remain on stage throughout the performance, singing the ‘trench’, ‘marching’ and Music Hall songs of the time. From that chorus, groups and soloists come to the middle of the stage and perform songs, both contemporary and traditional, about the Great War.

“The narrator, Iain Anderson, brilliantly links the songs with stories about the hero of the show, Jimmy MacDonald, who was born in “any village in Scotland”. It tells of Jimmy’s recruitment and training then follows his journey to the Somme and back to Scotland.

“It would not be a Scottish tragedy without laughter, so there are also stories of humour and joy that take this production well away from the path of unremitting gloom.”

Produced by Ian McCalman and with a huge cast of performers including Barbara Dickson, Siobhan Miller, Mairi MacInnes, Dick Gaughan, Ian McCalman, Iain Anderson and Professor Gary West, Far, Far from Ypres plays at HMT Aberdeen for just the one night – Thursday 09 August 2018. 

Seats are becoming scarce for the Aberdeen performance but can still be had via the Aberdeen Performing Arts booking site @:

Do go, if only to hear about the Zeppelin bombing of the Aberdeenshire villages of Insch, Old Rayne and of course Colpy.

Mar 022017

David Innes reviews ‘The Wren and The Salt Air’ – a new E.P. release by Jenny Sturgeon on Fit Like Records.

In September 2016, commissioned by The National Trust for Scotland, Donside’s own Jenny Sturgeon visited the abandoned North Atlantic Hebridean archipelago, St Kilda, to derive inspiration for a musical release to commemorate this wilderness’s thirtieth anniversary as a World Heritage site.

The Wren and The Salt Air, a four-track EP, inspired by the island’s bird life and history, is the impressive result.

Maintaining the distinctive writing and performance style of recent release From The Skein, Ms Sturgeon imbues haunting Celtic melodies with her trademark natural imagery and unobtrusive, custom-fitted arrangements.

‘Seabird’ is a word painting describing the majestic movement of the colony’s thousands of birds in flight, and at rest, in almost architectural terms, and the title track takes on the vibe of an ancient folk tale, as the juxtaposition of unforgiving weather and the frailty of a tiny St Kilda Wren paints a vivid picture of the stoicism of living creatures “where salt air pinches skin”.  

The bird life of St Kilda assumes co-billing with Jenny, Jonny Hardie and Pete McCallum, to the extent that on the final segment of ‘St Kilda Set’, after some fine, evocative blue-edged Hardie fiddle-led tunes, the local Kittiwake and Leach’s Petrel are given a featured ninety-second solo spot. The St Kilda Wren’s urgent song too, provides unusual but fitting counterpoint to the melody of ‘The Wren and The Salt Air’

With 10% of the profits of the CD sales going to support conservation work on St Kilda, The Wren and The Salt Air is even more worthy of your small investment.

The Wren and The Salt Air
Fit Like Records

This review was originally posted on the reviewer’s own website where the old fool gamely attempts to be some sort of tastemaker.


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Sep 292016

The Mission release their new album, ‘Another Fall From Grace’ on 30th September 2016. They play Glasgow’s ABC 02 on 3 October, with Peter Murphy the opening act. Suzanne Kelly was one of the many who helped crowd fund this new work, and will be on hand for the Glasgow show.

paul-grace-25-min2Another Fall From Grace was produced by Wayne Hussey and Tim Palmer and features guest backing vocals from Gary Numan, Martin Gore (Depeche Mode), Ville Valo (HIM), Julianne Regan (All About Eve) & Evi Vine.
On September 2nd The Mission release the gloriously melodramatic Met-Amor-Phosis, the first single from the new album.

Co-Produced by Tim Palmer and Wayne Hussey, Met-Amor-Phosis features backing vocals by HIM front man Ville Valo and marks a return for The Mission to their classic anthemic swagger and bombast.

The Met-Amor-Phosis digital only single includes a haunting acoustic version by Wayne Hussey and a high energy club version called, ‘The Black Star Remix’ by Evansson.

Met-Amor-Phosis emerged following a coastal drive from LA to San Francisco, explains Wayne:

“Bowie had just died, and whilst the first verse is mostly autobiographical having also recently read Kafka’s novel of the same title, the second verse is certainly flavoured by Bowie’s passing’’

Of the new album, Wayne commented:

“For me, this new Mission album is the long lost missing link between the Sisters Of Mercy’s First & Last & Always and The Mission’s God’s Own Medicine, both albums of course that I was heavily involved in making. I set out this time with the intention of making an album that sounds like 1985.

“The fact that I feel this has largely been achieved is down to my renewed love for the jingle jangle shimmer of the electric 12 string guitar which featured heavily on those two previously mentioned albums and now the new Mission album.

“This is a dark album although I didn’t set out with that intention, it’s just the way things unfolded. I know I did go a little crazy and even a little paranoid during the recording of this album, certainly my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well being all suffered during the course of it. And I think that has informed both the music and the lyrics.

“So much of this was done in isolation – from the world, from my family, from my friends, and even from my band mates. I can’t say it’s an album I enjoyed making but it is an album I needed to make.

“It is with huge relief that I can now say it is finished and maybe it’s like an acute pain that you have that once it’s gone you can’t remember how it felt. I hope so as I would like one day to feel the fondness for this record that it maybe deserves.”

Another Fall From Grace will be available on CD, DL and 180 gram vinyl plus ltd edition DELUXE double CD and DVD.

The deluxe version contains full album on CD, an instrumental version of the album with bonus remix track ‘Met-Amor-Phosis’ and a 93 minute DVD featuring never before seen footage from 1987 of The Mission performing at Elland Road, Leeds, supporting U2, Aston Villa Leisure Centre as The Metal Gurus and The Royal Court in Liverpool for the Hillsborough benefit gig, both from 1989, producer Tim Palmer’s home footage of the recording of ‘Carved in Sand’ /’Butterfly on a Wheel’ video, and the promo video for new single Met-Amor-Phosis.

A new video ‘Met-Amor-Phosis’ – can be found here:

Aberdeen Voice will review the Glasgow date. More information on The Mission here:

Sep 012016

A well-respected member of NE Scotland’s impressive and eclectic musical community, united in its determination to preserve and enhance the area’s cultural heritage, Pete Coutts’s solo debut album Northern Sky, sees him dig deep into Doric melodic and vernacular traditions. David Innes reviews.

pete couttsNorthern Sky falls almost naturally into the complementary spheres of song and tune, with the track sequencing naturally alternating between both, pleasing on the ear, avoiding the intensity of instrumental overload, and giving the contents welcome breathing space.

It’s no surprise given the collaboration of the cream of NE traditional musicians on Northern Sky that there is ensemble playing of great aplomb throughout.

‘In & Oot’, with Coutts’s own scintillating mandolin, Jonny Hardie’s fiddle and Brian McAlpine’s accordion, is a sumptuous traditional piece, whilst ‘Allathumpach’ impresses in its instrumental precision and interplay as the melody winds itself around a punchy rhythm.

‘Villa Rosa’ serves up much of the same, its stabbed rhythmic punctuation supporting an angular, almost-geometric spiralling tune. And whether intended or not, the sparkling coda of ‘Strichen Gala – The Road To Aikey Brae’ has the precision and spikiness of that other Pete’s ground-breaking ARP parts on Who’s Next.

When it comes to Coutts’s songs, he displays masterful understanding of folk and bothy ballad structures, sentiments and feel. ‘Belhelvie’ documents a motor-age agricultural tragedy voiced in Coutts’s Doric phrasing and timbre with Ali Hutton’s bluesy whistle underscoring the mood. There is a stamp of authenticity too, given that the ballad’s protagonists are the singer’s own direct ancestors.

‘Sail & Oar’ is carried on a fine melody, sweetened by co-writer Jenny Sturgeon’s harmony and it evokes the atmosphere of Peterhead’s labour-intensive fishing industry, with well-crafted instrumental passages honed to the narrative.

‘Casting The Peat’, celebrating the endeavour employed in cutting fuel in Coutts’s own Cyaak (some say New Pitsligo), the global epi-centre of peat production, is narrated in the farm bothy tradition, but Coutts’s obvious affection for his subjects on both land and sea makes these arduous and dangerous operations sound almost pleasurable.

And whilst the life of a farm servant was tough, and bothy ballads written for local entertainment often coarse, Pete’s original ‘Will Ye Byde’ touches on the familiar tale of the unscrupulous farmer, but its theme is tender and caring as the worker, departing at the term end, gently declares his passion for the quine he’s leaving behind.

Nick Drake’s ‘Northern Sky’ provides both the album title and the opportunity for a faithful interpretation of a landmark song, but subtly-added Celtic inflections and flavourings ensure that it fits seamlessly with Coutts’s theme on an album which will prove to be a worthy addition to the cultural library of NE Scotland.

This review was written for the reviewer’s own webpage/blog (he’s not really sure which – it’s an age thing)

Feb 012016

Jahh_Jizzle_01022016JAHHI Aberdeen rapper Jahh Jizzle has mopped up the local competition, and now seeks to release an EP early this year. Andrew Watson interviews.

Jamie Kemp, 23, of Summerhill, has honed his craft for about four years and has taken on all challengers with what has proved to be a sizeable appetite.

Perhaps this can be attributed to knowing the city like the back of his hand, which in turn is down to his childhood.

“I’m originally from the Castlegate. That’s where I was brought up when I was younger. Virginia Court area, and then I moved to Balgownie up in Bridge of Don. I did my primary school days up there, and then I moved to Hazlehead Academy, which was Summerhill area, for my later on days.”

Furthermore, a certain musicality could be more simply put down to his parents.

“My mum’s actually a singer. She’s done that her whole life. My gran was the same. My dad, he actually left when I was a young boy, about three or four, but was a drummer for my mum’s band. So there’s a lot of musical background for my family.”

Rap music was how he fitted it in with his family.

“I was always seeing my family, my mum, singing when I was getting brought up. My gran. Rap I found was my way of doing things. My proper introduction to rap music was about four years ago when I had a rap battle onstage, my first one, and that was one of the most memorable things that happened to me in my life to do with rap.”

Was Eminem an inspiration, like for many within the white rap audience?

“I actually don’t like a lot of Eminem. I like a lot of Wu Tang Clan, like Nas, maybe rappers you haven’t heard of. MC Justice, he’s from Australia. He’s a freestyle battler. A lot of underground people listen to Tenshu. He’s a bit bigger now. But I’ve got a lot of inspiration from a lot of different people, and not just the one.”

…and favourite rappers?

“Well, it was all about rap battles when I was getting into it and it was MC Justice, I’ve mentioned his name already, Tenshu, Shotty Horroh, Stig of the Dump. Professor Green when he was first coming out. There was a lot of others involved, but they were the ones that stick out to me. Stick out on my mind.”

Battling, of course, is more than metaphorical for Jahh. Once a keen amateur boxer, the physicality of it looms large.

Jahh_Jizzle_01022016JAHHIII“When I’m onstage and battling I get the same, that’s the only other time I will get the same rush as when I’ve had a boxing match, when you come off a boxing match and you’ve got the shakes and everything.

“It’s exactly the same feeling I’ll get when I come off after a rap battle, whether I win or lose. Whatever. And that’s, yeah, I reckon it has a lot to do with that.

“It’s the same feeling.”

It’s not all about throwing haymakers, though. The best battle rapper has to broaden their horizons.

“I know a few rap battlers and some of them do lack the aspect of writing tracks and performing them a bit different than having to rip the piss out of someone onstage. So, yeah, I reckon you just need to take a step back and listen to your track before you release it to think is that okay enough to put forward not as a rap battler, but as a musician.”

Many of those rappers he knows come under the umbrella of Aberdeen Movement. Jahh explains what exactly this is.

“Me and my pal Nico started it about four years ago when we first started rapping. A movement isn’t a group of rappers, it isn’t a solo rapper, it’s like if we go in a club and we all perform together. Say there’s Ill Collective, there’s me and a few of my mates, there’s RFM and we all come together, right? Like, describe that as Aberdeen Movement. A group of people when we all get together from Aberdeen to become a movement of rappers to try and push something forward. So that’s basically what it is.

Coming from such an all-encompassing cooperative, there’ve been many offers. Some he’s appreciated, and others he hasn’t.

“You would get a lot of people trying to push this towards me. Oh, Jazza, Aberdeen Movement trying to big up my side of the rap, and I would, I’m all for that. Cheers for the promo and everything, but I don’t like people trying to sook up too much. I like people if they like my music, like it for what you like it for. Don’t try and push to try and like it. You do get that a lot of that round Aberdeen and round the whole of Scotland, I see. Not just here.”

There’ve also been enemies, the competition, that’ve become, in some cases, close friends.

“I’ve actually got a lot of friends through rap battling. I’ve had seven up until now onstage and I’m undefeated, but my first rap battle was against a comedian called Peter Wood and since then he’s just got me onstage so many times. He’s been such a pal to me, helping me out with a lot of things. There’s been another one of my friends, his name’s Giovanni. Gio.

“We battled each other before, as well. We’re just the closest of pals now. There’s like, I’ve seen it happen so many times, they’ll hate eachother for about a week after the battle’s over and done with. Bestest of mates. So, yeah, you can get along with a lot of people after seeing to them.”

We then got into the semantics of recording, debating age old talking points regarding how the musical process is recorded. Listen to the beat first, or tailor the beat to what’s been already written?

But at the end of the day, rap’s rap.

“Yeah, it does go a bit of both ways, but myself normally I’ll download say about fifteen random instrumentals, and I have got a few producers around Aberdeen that would send me some, like of their own instrumentals.

“So I would wait, write tracks, say a grime track over random instrumentals until a proper producer had sent me his one.

“Most of the time if you write a certain type of music, when someone sends you another version of it your track, your bars, will go to it quite easy. So someone goes, ‘oh you’ve been, this a homemade instrumental instead of just a YouTube one’.

“You’d rather spit your lyrics over a homemade instrumental that’s made by one of your friends, than just a random person that you’ve got over YouTube.

“That’s what I try and do, tailor, write, my bars to someone else’s intro off, say the internet, just a random one and then once a proper home, someone that you knows made one, sends it to you to push your work onto that. That’s how it goes for me, anyway.”

Another contentious issue for many hip-hoppers is the live band as a backup, as opposed to samplers and drum machines.

“When I first started out I was very iffy about this subject because I thought I wrote my tracks down to this instrumental, this is how it’s got to sound. But at the end of the day, rap’s rap. People are here to see a rapper, doesn’t matter what track you’ve done it to, you should have enough rhymes in your head that you can just open your mouth and spit to anything.

“Now, after about, I’ve been rapping for eight years now, but I’ve been onstage for four or five. I prefer a live band now rather than using my instrumentals from my phone, or just doing something random. So, a live band is what I like to prefer to do now.

“You get a lot of jazz and blues I jump over if they do, the Malt Mill used to have a night, there’s a night called Rhythm and Rhymes that happens every couple of months with a live band with Simon Gall and JuJu. There’s heaps of things on the go just now in Aberdeen. The scene’s really opening up in the last two years or so.”

Other discussion centred more around the style and delivery of rap. Technical and tongue twisting, or brutal and hardcore?

Jahh_Jizzle_01022016JAHHII“I like to do a bit of both, actually. Depends on what I’m working on. Brutal and hardcore if there’s an opponent standing in front of me, then I like tongue twisters if it’s a, say a grime track, or a hip hop track. You like to show what you’re all about. On the other side, if you are battling somebody you like to tell them what you are all about.”

This lead to Jahh’s favourite rappers in Aberdeen.

“Out of Aberdeen, because I’ve rapped so long here, I know a lot of the rappers here. I wouldn’t particularly say, he’s my favourite rapper; he’s my favourite rapper.

“The one person I try to push a lot of confidence into’s a boy called Shaun Q, Shaun Quantrell. He’s just something else for the grime, really, with his grime flow. But there’s Shaun, Gio, and my mate Nico and Ill Collective.

“They’re all smashing their scene. There’s even FA. Gideon Gamba from Ransom Fee Media. I see a lot of singers actually coming out. Cameron Jay’s doing a lot of good for Aberdeen at the moment. There’s so much people to mention I could just go on for the whole day, like.”

Then came some discussion about the Aberdeen urban scene, and its health.

“When I first started onstage about four years ago I thought it needed a lot of improvement. Me and my mate Nico were the only two I was hearing, the only two rappers I was hearing, jumping onstage every week or so, but in the last two years things have just blown out of proportion. It’s getting pretty good.

“Every week there’s an open mic. Every maybe second week there’s another gig coming up with other, like, another headline coming up from, say, down the road somewhere. So there’s a lot of talent coming up to Aberdeen to perform, now, not just locals. Getting a bit bigger in the scene.”

Maybe regional accents, particularly Scottish accents, are part in parcel to do with the health of the scene?

“Aye, because they don’t really know you yet. Me and my friends, at the start of this year, about seven of us from Aberdeen went down to a Boom Bap Festival. That’s in Suffolk, and if you want to make anything out of yourself as a rapper you need to go down there and meet other people. There’s a few, there’s a handful, of folk that I already had on Facebook and spoken to but they never took me seriously until they actually met me at the Boom Bap Festival earlier on this year.

“It’s a bit different, it’s the same with everything, once you speak to someone but haven’t met someone face to face you could maybe take their persona as someone else until you meet them. Sometimes I think it can hold you back but you get a lot of Scottish rappers trying to put on accents as well which I think can hold you back.”

Then came an admission, whether putting this accent or that accent on, that comes with trying to gain some sort of mass appeal in the rap world.

“English and American. I can’t lie, I done the same when I first came out. [American accent] I was four years old, and stuff like that. Like putting on a different twang to my voice, but I really think being true to yourself is the way to go so no one can say anything about you at the end of the day. Rap battlers like to point things out so you need to be true to yourself, and that’s the best way to go.”

Mass appeal, of course, usually comes somewhere along the lines of a rapper’s ultimate ambitions.

“I’ve actually, a lot of things I wanted to do when I first started rapping, I’ve done them. But now I’ve bigged up the scene in Aberdeen. I’ve performed out of Aberdeen. All I really want now is to perform for Scotland, not just an area.

“I’d rather go down to England and, say, battle someone in Manchester for Aberdeen versus Manchester, but Scotland versus England. So I’m kinda needing out of here now and into a bigger rap battle league which Don’t Flop’s, In My Eyes or Breaking the Barrier or something further down the lines, like. So that’s where I’m really wanting to go.”

We then weaved back towards the Aberdeen urban scene. Can the Aberdeen scene hold its own within the United Kingdom?

“Definitely. You should hear us down at Boom Bap Festival, we’re the loudest folk going about. I thought it would be different; but after a few drinks and a few Scots we know how to handle ourselves out round about, like.”

Moving from Aberdeen, to the whole UK rap scene, is one of many things Jahh has in mind for the future.

“For the rest of the year I’m looking to put out another EP called Crossing Borders which will be Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland all mixed together. I’ve got a lot of artists I know from all over the place, so I’m looking to push out that one later on next year.”

The Jahh Jizzle EP is due to be released on Monday, February 8. This will entail six tracks. There’ll be digital copies to give to anyone who wishes to purchase. For the first fifteen people that share the EP online, Jahh will send a hard copy CD.

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Jun 242014

Jasmine Minks release a new single in tribute to a lost friend and colleague, and stalwart of Aberdeen’s early indie/punk scene.

Jasmine MinksBackground

Positivity is required. It’s 2014 and the World Cup. France are flying, England are…. well, doing what England tend to do in World Cup finals… keep everyone on tenterhook’s as to how it will go.

Scotland didn’t make it but we did beat the 2006 runners-up France on their own turf which felt as good as winning the world cup and the Jasmine Minks were there to witness it.

It was to be the last real get together for us with our friend and roadie Mark (aka SCARS). He died not too long after.

This song is a tribute to the Man; he was a soul that shaped us in so many different ways. He was one of us. It’s a song about remaining strong through a time of change and so often to many adversity and worry.

Production rationale

The main constraint to music these days is appetite. What drives us to keep on doing what we do? Positivity that’s what!

We believe in the capacity of (good) music to make a change for the better. We made a positive change. We have for the first time in a career spanning over 30 years included the bagpipes on a Jasmine Minks song.

Think the Minks meet McCartney on a boozed up Mull of Kintyre giving it a “wishing we were Brian Wilson” kind of vibe with some Jethro Tull flute thrown in for good measure with a twist of guitar alongside power drumming and you have a cocktail to provoke the senses that will leave them shaken and most likely stirred too.

Investment rationale

We made a genius move and have invested our lives in building our WALL – this WALL enables us to do our thing despite being in different areas all over the place – it’s a construction of our Work Art Life and Love

We did it ourselves via technology, the internet and the skill set of a group of musicians spread from fields afar such as Norway, Aberdeen and Glencoe to the London outskirts of Sutton to make this positivity happen. We hope you enjoy!

Available via digital download from iTunes, Amazon etc from 22nd June.

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Sep 172013

With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Gerry Jablonski

Gerry Jablonski and The Electric Band have long been one the most successful acts to come out of Aberdeen.

Their first 2 albums on Fat Hippy Records have sold to classic blues rock fans all over the world and both albums have had to be re-pressed to supply demand for their music!

On the 23rd September Fat Hippy will release their stunning third album Twist Of Fate.

Recorded whilst the band were fighting for their future as drummer Dave Innes (Midge Ure, Marillion, Fish, Bay City Rollers) battles with stomach cancer there is real passion and pain on this album and it takes the band and their electric music to a whole new level.

The band will play Aberdeen’s Lemon Tree on September 20th; other upcoming dates include 21st September at Non-Zeros, Dundee and 27th September in Edinburgh’s Voodoo Rooms.

With tours of Poland, Germany and Czech Republic already booked for 2013 and 2014 to launch the album and interest from the USA growing every day you should probably catch this band whilst you can!  More info:

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Jul 052013

By David Innes. 

Amid all the rather grisly preparations to commemorate, aye that’s right, commemorate, the outbreak of The Great War next year and the undoubted attempts by the possibly-misguided to conflate the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn in 2014 with the Referendum, the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden in September 2013 has all but been overlooked.

We were told about Flodden in school, when Proper Mannies’ history was taught, but this was a cursory mention, possibly because we were beaten, in the chauvinistically-patriotic tapestry of Miss George’s best attempts to apprise us of our backstory, following the gory glory of Stirling Bridge and Bannockburn.

In later years, over pints in the Prince, the trusties and I have often mused on why James IV elected to give away home advantage by charging down the hill and why it seemed he elected to put the sixteenth century equivalent of CND members and the forebears of the Greenham Common women in the striking positions upfront.

He didn’t of course, but he got it wrong, as the splendid and concise sleevenotes by Jim Paris explain.

The battle was needless anyway. James felt he was beholden to the Auld Alliance and sought to draw English forces away from an ongoing conflict with our French allies.

There was little need; there was no compulsion. Just like Blair and his slavish devotion to Bush’s barely-disguised war for oil in 2002 and 2003. Even tactically, the king erred. History tells us that from a strong strategic position on a hill, impregnable to the English army below, battle was joined in the hollow and the slaughter ensued.

On a much larger scale, the errors and assumptions of the pre-charge Somme onslaught in 1916 repeated James’s error. The king himself and significant numbers of Scotland’s nobility died at Branxton on 9 September 1513. Estimates say that around 9000 soldiers perished with them, a considerable number of Scotland’s youth and young manhood, who had been well-equipped and fit.

In 1940, it is said that there was hardly a family in NE Scotland not directly affected by the extirpation and capture of the 51st (Highland) Division at Dunkirk, and more especially, St Valery-en-Caux.

George Santayana’s words, re-interpreted by Churchill,‘Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it’ ring ever more true.

Pipers Hill, where the English forces gathered has a simple granite cross, inscribed ‘To the brave of both nations’, to remind us of something from which future leaders might have learned. So, The Flooers O’ The Forest were all wede away. How well does Greentrax mark this painful and anguished turning point in Scottish history?

 Emotion has no bar code, no best-before date

The label itself says, ‘The album is dedicated to the memory of all those who fell on the bloody battlefield in September 1513. We hope it is a fitting tribute’. It is. With contributions from Dick Gaughan, Karine Polwart and Archie Fisher this was always going to be a stellar release.

The cast of lesser-known artists also impresses. Try the lusty natural chorus of the children of Drumlanrig and St Cuthberts Primary School, Hawick, reminding us of the tale of The Bonnie Banner Blue, to the accompaniment of what sounds like the assembly hall piano, the soft rock of New Zealander Steve McDonald’s Flodden Field and Lord Yester with Lau supporting Ms Polwart in expressing national grief and denial in personal terms.

Oh my love has gone tae Flodden grey Tae dance at Branxholme Lea And ere the night will turn tae day He will dance nae mair wi me

The title track features more than once, of course. It has resonated in the Scottish psyche for centuries and does not date. Emotion has no bar code, no best-before date. Dick Gaughan’s timbrous, resonating version must be among the best committed to any recording medium. It harnesses grief, resignation, anger and bitterness in an emotional and melodic tour de force.

Flooers o the Forest is our blues, our St James Infirmary our House of the Rising Sun, yet its almost nihilistic bleakness offers no hope of redemption. Does that not tell a story of Scotland with which we’re all familiar?

Greentrax makes no apology for including it in different guises, nor does the label apologise for featuring a pipe tune that is jealously and respectfully reserved by pipers for funerals and other mourning occasions.

With the added-in bonus of a CD of poetry and verse read in the stentorian and dramatic tones of Iain Anderson, John Shedden and Alastair McDonald, the full scope of the tragedy and its needless enactment is laid bare.

There are wonderful moments here, where the myths, superstitions and gory realities of Flodden echo down half a millennium, as chilling now as they were in the days when the memories were fresh and the needlessly-spilt blood in that silent Northumbrian field still warm.

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More info:

The Flooers O’ The Forest – Various Artists
(Greentrax Recordings)

CD1 – Songs And Music Of Flodden (15 tracks): Flooers O’ The Forest (Dick Gaughan) * Ettrick (Archie Fisher and Garnet Rogers) * Flodden’s Green Loaning (Celticburn) * Lord Yester (Lau vs Karine Polwart) * Flodden Field (Steve McDonald) * The Flodden Ride (Rob Bell) * Flodden Field – Child Ballad 168 (The Owel Service and Alison O’Donnell) * The Bonnie Banner Blue (Children of Drumlanrig and St Cuthberts Primary School Hawick) * The Recruiting Service Drum / Sons Of Heroes (McCalman, Quigg and Bayne) * Sorrowlessfield (Karine Polwart) * Auld Selkirk (Gary Cleghorn) * The Wail Of Flodden (Scocha) * Soutars O’ Selkirk / The Deid Cat (Drinkers’ Drouth with Davy Steele) * The Ears Of The Wolf (Robin Laing) * The Flooers O’ The Forest – instrumental (Gary West).

CD2 – Poems And Prose Of Flodden (7 tracks): Flodden Hill (Iain Anderson) * The Tale Of Richard Lawson (John Shedden) * The Warning To The King At Linlithgow (Iain Anderson) * The Flodden Dead Mass (John Shedden) * Edinburgh After Flodden (John Shedden) * Flodden (Iain Anderson) * Flodden (Marmion) / Flooers O’ The Forest (Alastair McDonald).

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Dec 212012

Aberdeen Voice’s David Innes reviews ¡No Pasaran! (They Shall Not Pass) – Scots In The Spanish Civil War (Greentrax Recordings)

Alas, there are few, if any heroes left of the International Brigade who fought for democracy in Spain in the 1930s. They were in the vanguard in fighting the inevitable battle against Fascism which would result in the slaughter and waste of a second World War in less than a quarter of a century.

Those who left the UK, and Scotland in particular, are enduring heroes of the left, and of freedom fighters everywhere.

There are memorials and books and commemorative gatherings for these brave socialists, but their dogged idealistic commitment and shared suffering led to great folk art.

Greentrax Recordings are to be commended for compiling the best of the Scottish Civil War songs and poems on a terrific and moving collection.

When the idea for the album was suggested, the compilers were staggered by the wealth of songs and poems available. They were heartened too, by the offers of new material on the theme. Editing the selection down to fifteen songs and a poem must have been a difficult task. Might we expect a second volume?

The collection veers between stirring anthems, none better than the joyous singalong Jarama Valley/Bandiera Rosa, the tender – Jamie Foyers and Si Me Quieres Escribir and simple stories of working class idealists who saw beyond the romantic adventure of the fight for freedom, yet still regarded it as a calling and their duty to enlist. Hasta Luego, a moving tale of a football fan leaving his younger brother at the turnstile to travel to Paris there and then, en route to Spain, is among the best of these.

A highlight for Aberdonians, though, will be local Brigadeer Bob Cooney’s Hasta La Vista, Madrid. Some of us were privileged enough to hear Comrade Cooney read this himself at meetings in the 1970s. This version, impeccably inhabited by Radio Scotland’s Iain Anderson, gives wonderful and moving expression to a rich, celebratory poem full of defiance and hope, scarce currency these days.

It is a fitting coda to a heart-stirring and emotional tribute to the immortal International Brigade.

Tracks: The Peatbog Soldiers (The McCalmans); Jamie Foyers (Dick Gaughan); Jarama Valley/Bandiera Rosa (The Laggan); Another Valley (Geordie McIntyre); Si Me Quieres Escribir (If You Want To Write); (Christine Kydd); These Hands (The Wakes); Owt For Nowt (John Watt); Viva La 15th Brigada/Viva Nicaragua (Carlos Arredondo); Picasso Paints Guernica (Robin Laing); Graves In Spain (Eileen Penman); When The Call Comes (George Archibald & Ian McCalman); Salud International Brigade (Jim Brown); Viva Los Brigadistas (Alison McMorland & Geordie McIntyre); Hasta Luego (Frank Rae); ¡No Pasaran! (Gallo Rojo); Hasta La Vista, Madrid (Iain Anderson)

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