This compilation reflects on a golden age of traditional music in Scotland, a country with a thriving musical history, where music-making is again endemic in a new generation. Fiddler Aly Bain and accordionist Phil Cunningham, known throughout Scotland simply as ‘Phil & Aly’, are among a very small number of traditional musicians who have become household names, breaking into the mainstream with their exquisite folk music and opening doors for others.
All great singers have distinctive voices that are instantly recognizable, but there is more to great singing than a good voice; there has to be that essential extra, often described as ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’. Ishbel MacAskill has one of these voices in Gaelic and Heather Heywood has a similar quality in Scots. Shepheard, Spiers and Watson, and Bob Blair, are singers whose style demonstrates a deep understanding of traditional song. Tom Spiers and Arthur Watson were both members of The Gaugers, a group who rarely travelled outside of their native northeast but who had a huge impact on the Scottish folk revival.
Traditional music-making was largely a solo art and the ‘folk group’ is a relatively modern phenomenon, resulting in some great music. On this album Battlefield Band and Ossian represent the older generation of folk bands in Scotland. Younger bands bring a new level of invention and diversity, Breabach’s huge sound is dominated by the twin bagpipes of Calum MacCrimmon and Donal Brown, complemented by the fiddle playing of Patsy Reid. Claire Mann and Aaron Jones perform on this recording as a duo. Each of them is a skilled solo performer but equally at home in a band setting.
The bonus disc presents one of Scotland’s foremost singers and clàrsach players, Maggie MacInnes. Recognised for her commitment to both tradition and innovation, Maggie’s connection to the centuries of her family’s singing and storytelling tradition can be heard throughout these captivating and heartfelt recordings.