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.

JENNY STURGEON
The Wren and The Salt Air
Fit Like Records

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

 Links:

www.jennysturgeonmusic.com
www.fitlikerecords.com
www.nts.org.uk/seabirds

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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) www.bluesandmoregain.com

May 162016
 

Sea [is still] Around Us 01 higher res

The Sea [is still] Around Us.

With thanks to John Morrison.

As director of The Obituary Project, a compendium of experimental salvage ethnography that transforms a daily form of narrative, Hope Tucker reframes the passing of sites, people, communities, rituals, cultural markers, and ways of being.

Peacock Visual Arts presents selections from The Obituary Project this Wednesday, 18 May 2016, 6.30pm.

She has documented shuttered bread factories, fallen witness trees, and disappearing civil rights era landmarks; animated cyanotypes of downwinders and old instructions for making fishing nets by hand; recorded mobile phone footage of the last public phone booths in Finland; written the entire text of a video out of paper clips, a Norwegian symbol of nonviolent resistance; and retraced the path of protest that closed the only nuclear power plant in Austria.

Screening programme:

Missing in the Severe Clear
USA, 2001 / 4 minutes/ sound
‘Severe clear’ is aviation slang for clear, crisp, blue skies with boundless visibility.

Vermont says goodbye to Solzhenitsyn
USA, 2012/ 4 minutes/ surveillance video/ Russian with English titles
The Russian writer spent twenty years in exile in a remote American village. This pixelation, part one of a
diptych, was shot on the anniversary of his death.

Lolo Ferrari
USA, 2001 / 2 minutes/ corrupted sound file
An obituary whittles one’s social contribution down to its barest form.

Puhelinkoppi (1882-2007)
Finland, 2010/ 8 minutes/ mobile video/ Finnish with English titles
Marking a shift in the functioning of private and public space, after existing as a sidewalk staple for over a
century, the phone booth in Finland is now extinct. A Nokia camera phone documents the passing.

Noel
UK, 2005 / 5 minutes/ sound
A songwriter’s identity remains as obscure as his motives for penning a popular American holiday standard.

Bessie Cohen, Survivor of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
USA, 2000 / 3 minutes/ sound
The last ninety years of a complex life become eclipsed by an escape from a burning building.

Big Star
USA, 2003 / 3 minutes/ sound
The map-maker grew up down the street from where the car hit the tree and rode many a Big Star cart.

Handful of Dust
USA, 2013/ 9 minutes/ mono recording from 1953
Prussian blue can be used to render images and counteract radiation poisoning.

Vi holder sammen/ We hold together
Norway, 2011 / 4 minutes/ Norwegian with English titles
A typeface formed by hand from paper clips spells out an imperfect construction of a national history as it
visualizes a period of nonviolent resistance.

The Sea [is still] Around Us
USA, 2012/ 4 minutes/ sound
Rachel Carson is dead, but the sea is still around us…this small lake is a sad reminder of what is taking
place all over the land, from carelessness, shortsightedness, and arrogance. It is our pool of shame in this,
’our particular instant of time.’ E.B. White, 1964

About the artist

Hope Tucker transforms what we know as a daily form of terse, text-driven, populist narrative through The Obituary Project, a compendium of moving image that gives new life to the antiquated documentary practice of salvage ethnography.

She has animated cyanotypes of downwinders and instructions for making fishing nets by hand; photographed shuttered bread factories, fallen witness trees, and decaying civil rights era landmarks; recorded mobile phone footage of the last public phone booths of Finland; written the text of a video out of paper clips, a Norwegian symbol of solidarity and nonviolent resistance; and retraced the path of protest that closed the only nuclear power plant in Austria.

Works from the project have screened in festivals, museums, and galleries including 21er Haus, Vienna; Ann Arbor Film Festival; Cairo Video Festival; European Media Art Festival, Osnabrück; Images Festival, Toronto; International Film Festival, Rotterdam; Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino; New York Film Festival; Punto de Vista, Pamplona; Vox Populi, Philadelphia; Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Zagreb Dox.

* Downwinders refers to the individuals and communities in the intermountain area between the Cascade and Rocky Mountain ranges who are exposed to radioactive contamination or nuclear fallout from atmospheric or underground nuclear weapons testing, and nuclear accidents.

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Apr 222016
 

Hamish Napier’s debut album The River is now on general release. Duncan Harley reviews.

hamish-napier-the-river-1280For the past three years Hamish has
been Musical Director of big folk band Ceol Mor at Aberdeen International Youth Festival.

This year at Celtic Connections Ceol Mor celebrated the music of the North East with a programme of ballads, Scots songs, storytelling, and braw tunes by Scots fiddle and accordion legends of past and present.

What is the The River all about?

“Well,” says Hamish, “growing up next to the Spey, I spent many hours of youth practicing to the roar of the river in the background, so it’s always been there in my music.

“The River brings to the surface vivid sonic images of occurrences, past and present, along the mile-long stretch of the Spey that flows past my childhood home.

“One of my brother’s fishes it, the other canoes it, my Uncle Sandy photographed it, my mother paints it, and there’s my Father’s daily fascination with its erratically changing water level. It will always symbolize home and a strong connection to nature. No mortal’s relationship with the river can ever be truly harmonious, its ever-changing micro-climate, mysteriously dark depths and unrelenting power are both merciless and enchanting.”

The themes of The River range from the epic journeys of the Atlantic salmon to the river as home to local characters including fishermen, bailiffs, spirits and children. Hamish grew up on the banks of the Spey and spent many hours practicing to the roar of the river in the background

“Its always been there in my music … and brings to the surface vivid sonic images of occurrences, past and present,” says Hamish.

“For this piece I wanted to make use of all my musical resources … I am a huge fan of every one of the musicians on this project.”

Alongside Hamish on piano, clavinet and harmonium the album features Martin O’Neal on bhodran, Sarah Haynes on alto-flute and James Lindsay on base. Pitcaple born James was winner of the 2014 Martyn Bennet Prize for Traditional Music Composition.

Using backing vocals from natural sources including Oystercatchers, Heron and Curlew this is a groundbreaking album reflecting, says Hamish on the rivers “mysteriously dark depths and unrelenting power.”

A crackin’ album, The River is available from digital download stores and direct from Hamish at http://www.hamishnapier.com/

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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Dec 242015
 

Gordon_Duthiefeat Reviewed by Duncan Harley.

Described by Tom Robinson on BBC Radio 6 as “Wildly different but never not interesting”, Gordon Duthie has yet again hit the sweet spot with the release of his new album Dunt Dunt Dunt Dunt.

In this, his fourth album release, the NE singer/songwriter/musician reflects on work-related themes and engages in an often humorous take on club dance music to get his point across.

A year in the making, this new offering looks deeply into the soulless existence of those micromanaged Gen-X Millennials who, says Gordon:

“will IM you. Then ignore you to your face … Millennials have no empathy and are socially a bit awkward … social media has pretty much changed the world”.

The noun ‘dunt’ can of course be used in various contexts.

“In Aberdeen at the moment lots of people are getting the dunt and it affects everyone engaged in the oil business either directly via job losses or indirectly to do with the threat of redundancy,” says Gordon.

It can also be a wake up call. The pounding lyrics of Hadephobia refer to the sky falling in – a clear reference to getting the dunt big time:

“I looked and saw the fear in your eyes, like a long hot summer, burning the sky.”

Dead Dreams reflects on “Sitting for hours in a solid chair, listening to a man who sold his life … dead dreams inside us, fight an old child’s mind.”

“It’s about PowerPoint Hell” says Gordon, “we’ve all sat through it.”

In Young Kenny – A melodious but slightly mournful piece – Gordon describes a composite character struggling with isolation and loneliness. “Young Kenny didn’t know who he was … it all came to a head … the mystical beauty of the coast, brought his mind back again.”

With previous albums Thran, Shire and City and Multimedia Monster under his belt, Westhill-based Gordon’s new release is a powerful mix of social comment set solidly within a framework of electric ambient club music.

As Gordon himself says, the lyrics

“Wink nicely at local events.”

Mixed and Mastered by Thaddeus Moore of Sprout City Studios, Dunt Dunt Dunt Dunt is available from most digital music stores and also direct from Gordon at www.gordonduthie.com

First published in the December Leopard Magazine.

Dec 032015
 

With thanks to Cindy Douglas.

Cindy Douglas Snowfall2Aberdeenshire based Jazz vocalist Cindy Douglas has just released a seasonal EP entitled Snow Falls. The EP sensitively captures the bitter sweetness of the festive season.

One of the emerging talents on the UK jazz scene, vocalist and songwriter Cindy Douglas has carved a niche for herself with her broad repertoire, charming conversational style and engaging personality.

Her collaborations with such lauded musicians as Konrad Wiszniewski (New Focus, Brass Jaw, Scottish National Jazz Orchestra) and Tim Richards (Great Spirit, Hextet), have further enhanced and strengthened her reputation as a creative and ‘in demand’ jazz musician.

This latest project has Cindy joining forces once again with the musicians that featured on her critically acclaimed debut release My New Jive, namely: Tim Richards (piano), Dominic Howles (bass) and Jeff Lardner on (drums).

Cindy’s songwriting features on two tracks on the album.  The title track, a gentle bossa nova tune and the traditional carol Holst and Rossetti’s In the Bleak Midwinter, here titled Bleak Midwinter has been updated with a soulful and bluesy additional verse from Cindy.

Another favourite and familiar tune Christmas Time Is Here is given an up-tempo treatment which perfectly suits Cindy’s interpretation of the song as representative of a happy and childlike anticipation of Christmas. The original version from Charlie Brown’s Christmas can be heard on The Peanuts Movie, out in cinemas on 21st December.

The closing track is a lesser-known yet very beautiful Hoagy Carmichael song Winter Moon a tune whose atmospheric melody and lyric showcases Cindy’s vocal range and interpretive skills.

The EP will be available via Cindy’s website www.cindydouglas.com, and via iTunes and Amazon later in December. Individual tracks will also be available for purchase.

The original cover artwork was designed by Morven Douglas, Cindy’s 17 year old niece and is available as a free download with any purchase.

Cindy commented:

“Like many, the festivities over winter bring a mixture of emotions and memories. From the inner child’s wonderment at the magic in the air when waking up to snow, to the melancholy and sadness when thinking of longed for loved ones. These thoughts were very much in mind when putting this EP together.”

Track listing:

Snow Falls – Cindy Douglas/Tim Richards
Bleak Midwinter – Holst/Christina Rossetti
Christmas Time Is Here – Vince Guaraldi/Lee Mendelson
Winter Moon – Hoagy Carmichael.

Aug 252015
 

NickyAiken2With thanks to Nicky Aiken.

Local Singer/Songwriter Nicky Aiken will be appearing at Brewdog Bar in Aberdeen this Thursday (27th of August) to launch his new 4 track EP, “I Think About You”.
The EP launch party will be a stripped down intimate gig where all the songs will be played from both this EP & his last EP “View From The Top Floor”.

A true solo project by definition, Nicky plays all the instruments on the tracks (‘Tear Across The Page’, ‘I Think About You’, ‘ALIVE!’, ‘Learn’) which he has himself written, recorded and produced. 

The EP Will be available to download from all major online stores on August the 21st 2015.

The list of artists he has played support to is an impressive one and includes: Turing Brakes, Proud Mary, Pearl & the Puppets, Skint & Demoralised, Josephine, AMWWF (Anderson McGinty Webber ward & Fisher), The New Medicants (Teenage Fanclubs Norman Blake), Beans on Toast, Nizlopoli, Mark Morris (Bluetones).

Nicky also fronts the Blues Rock Band “Strange Skies” Who have also recently released a new EP called “Better Games”. They will Tour at the end of 2015 and early 2016.

Nicky plans to tour Scotland and the north of England, exclusively for all Brewdog bars in October.

Links:

Email: nickytaiken@googlemail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nickyaikenuk
Sound cloud: https://soundcloud.com/nicky-aiken/tear-across-the-page
Video from the Fist EP: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PNFR3R4k4g

Jun 252015
 

Shooglenifty UntiedGraham Stephen reviews the album by Shooglenifty, ‘The Untied Knot’.

In the 1990s Scottish music exploded out of the buttoned-up confines of strict-tempo and village ceilidhs into the arena of dance, rave and world music thanks to innovators like Shooglenifty, who along with other maverick experimentalists such as Martyn Bennett and Afro Celt Sound System, gave Celtic music a much needed skelp in the lug, adrenalising the traditional by adding irresistible grooves and beats to jigs and reels.

On their seventh studio album, The Untied Knot, Shooglenifty celebrate their 25th anniversary by adding another dimension, the ethereal vocals of Mouth Music’s Kaela Rowan.

Diehard fans should be reassured that the recognisable Shoogle components are all basically intact. The jingling mandolins, tinkling banjos, swampy guitar breaks and the free-flowing fiddle of Angus Grant are all grounded by the rhythmic empathy of drummer James Mackintosh, whose importance in modern Scottish traditional music is immeasurable.

Tunes like the enigmatic, eastern flavoured ‘The Scorpian/Devil’s Breath Hornpipe’, the dancy, funky drive of ‘The Highway Carpark’ and Ewan Macpherson’s hypnotic ‘Somebody’s Welcome to Somewhere’, all create familiar multi-layered soundscapes of intricate instrumental interplay. The latter is particularly enhanced by the invaluable guest appearance of Ross Ainslie on pipes, whose whistle also delivers the poignant slow air of the title track.

Yet it is Rowan’s vocal input that defines the album, ‘Peaches/Monkwell Road/ Meal Do Bhrogan’ shows how effectively her voice can be integrated into the established band sound, becoming another instrument, rhythmically winding melodies around the groove, adding a human edge to the cascading tunes.

Perhaps the novelty of having a singer means that her voice is a little overused, with occasional drifts towards bland Capercaillie territory, where a little more cross cultural edginess would be more intriguing. However, any reservations are more than compensated by tracks as strong as former member Luke Plumb’s uplifting ‘The Arms of Sleep’ and Grant’s closing stirring Antipodean creation ‘Fitzroy Crossing’ with its archive Gaelic samples, electronica and more telling whistle from Ainslie.

Shooglenifty’s twenty-five years have been a meandering collaborative adventure, valuing gigs in rainforests and village halls above stadiums and huge commercial success, and all the more interesting for that. This latest album, presented in a very fine John Byrne cover, is an intriguing development of their sound and as strong a studio set as they have released.

Listen/Purchase here – Shooglenifty – The Untied Knot (Shoogle 15015)

Apr 172015
 

Trouble With The Blues is the fourth album from the Gerry Jablonski Band. It’s a classic compendium racing up and down the full spectrum of The Blues, and it’s absolutely cracking. Suzanne Kelly stops listening to it long enough to review.

Trouble With The Blues CoverThe Gerry Jablonski Band has come up with their best album yet, although it’s not as if they’ve released any flawed albums before. Twist of Fate, their last album was rightly well received.

But on Trouble With The Blues, the high production values, writing, playing, solos and vocals have reached new, highly-gelled heights. My first initial reaction is that I must see them do this material live as soon as possible.

The lyrics run from playful, for example in ‘The Curse’, to heartbreakingly raw and painful.

This emotion comes in no small measure from the sad passing of the band’s long-standing percussionist Dave Innes, who tragically passed away one year ago after illness. The last piece, ‘I Confess’ puts me in mind of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy which painfully questions existence; if you hear the song, you’ll perhaps take my meaning.

In ‘I Confess’, the lyrics are initially filled with sorrow:

“I never felt this way before until my friend passed away”

– as direct and crushing as a lyric can get. As it reaches a crescendo, the lyrics increasingly expose more raw pain, self-contempt and anger mirrored in the poignant vocals. All the while the guitar grows correspondingly louder and more insistent.

It’s cathartic for anyone who’s had such a loss; such a person will identify with this song and likewise be moved. It’s incredibly honest, as is ‘Anybody.’

‘Anybody’ is also a mournful, classic blues. Clapton would have been happy to have come up with this song. The instrumentals are minimal, while Jablonski sings

“I’m only human after all.  I’ve been through my changes; don’t know which way to turn.  All my friends are doing fine.  So somebody, could be anybody, take me to the light.”

Jablonski - Credit - Peter Narojczyk (1)People are going to be singing along to this when they hear it live, I guarantee it. The only thing I’d say is that this sweet song is one I could imagine with a gospel choir on the chorus towards the end; i.e. the ‘Under The Bridge’ effect if you will. But other than that suggestion, I’ve no fault to find with this accomplished album.

Jablonski’s voice has never been in better form; the guitar work, and especially the guitar solos have also taken things up a notch. The title track ‘Trouble with the Blues’ has a scorcher of a solo, for instance.

But this album is a group effort, a team production. The entire band shares the song writing credits. There are polished bass lines and funky bass solos: ‘Trouble With The Blues’ has a great solo. Once again Peter Peter Narojczyk’s harmonica work is versatile, polished, expressive; Jerry Portnoy would approve. Lewis Fraser is now on the drums. He’s done a brilliant piece of work on this album. Mr Innes would approve.

I’ve dwelt on two melancholy, soul-baring tracks so far; but ultimately this album is celebratory.  ‘Lady & I’ is upbeat and sassy; ‘The Curse’ is great fun.  Then again so is ‘Fork Fed Dog’ – down, dirty, fun. I can imagine sets opening with this high-voltage track. It’s a tremendous track and I look forward to experiencing it live. ‘Big Bad World’ is a nice sharp bit of social commentary and a good showplace for Narojczyk, with a short but sharp Jablonski solo.

Live dates are indeed coming; for more information on this album and where to catch the Gerry Jablonski band, see the website here:  www.gerryjablonskiband.com . I also understand that a video is forthcoming, shot at least in part in Aberdeen’s D-Range recording studio.

Jablonski - Credit - Peter Narojczyk (3)There is a great deal of debate in Aberdeen now about what is or is not culture, and what Aberdeen’s greatest cultural assets are. This album is as strong a hint as you can possibly get on that score.

This is not a piece of work to listen to once and forget; it will be going on your iPod and going where you go.

Having seen their Facebook updates during the project, and how happy they were to be at Abbey Road, I must say I’m very happy they’ve come out with such a strong, varied, memorable work. Nice work, gentlemen.