Monthly news summary of all the happenings and up and coming events in the Scottish Traditional Music scene.
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"What a beautiful noise. All it needs now is an excuse to do this all over again - as often and in as many places as possible." This is what the The Herald said of the Celtic big-band phenomenon, The Unusual Suspects, after its storming debut success at 2003's Celtic Connections festival. After a repeat performance at Celtic Connections 2004 the band set out on the road with a tour organised by Folkworks. The tour was a great success including an amazing opening performance at Radio 2's Folk Awards 2004. The CD "Live in Scotland" features performances from that tour. Fiddles & pipes allied to trumpets, trombone & saxophone and a repertoire which is both traditional and contemporary.
Musicians: Aidan O' Rourke, Catriona Macdonald , Bruce Macgregor, Clare McLaughlin, Eilidh Shaw, Chris Stout - fiddles. Rory Campbell, Findlay Macdonald, Annie Grace – bagpipes. Emily Smith , Brian McAlpine – accordions. Rick Taylor - trombone . Phil Bancroft – sax. Colin Steele, Ryan Quigley – trumpet. Corrina Hewat – clarsach. David Milligan – piano. Marc Clement - guitar . Donald Hay, James MacKintosh - percussion. Ewan Vernal - double bass. John Morran - vocals, bouzouki.
|Title:||Varying from beguiling harmonic sophistication to wild wolfish fiddling sometimes in the one set of tunes, it's a tribute to the imagination and vision of musical directors Corrina Hewat and David Milligan - and touch wood, only the beginning|
|Source:||The Herald - Rob Adams|
|Review:||Amassing the original thirtysomething-strong throng of traditional musicians with brass section for a one-off concert was an achievement. Taking even this reduced version of the Unusual Suspects on the road might have challenged the great Montrose, but it was done, successfully, and this is the recorded proofin all its orchestral glory. It has its rough moments, as live albums will, but the spirit of the project and the enterprise of collecting everything from Jacobite song to free jazz improvisation under one banner win through. Varying from beguiling harmonic sophistication to wild wolfish fiddling sometimes in the one set of tunes, it's a tribute to the imagination and vision of musical directors Corrina Hewat and David Milligan - and touch wood, only the beginning. The Herald|
|Title:||Sheer force of numbers alone would have delivered plenty of memorable music, but what heightens the experience further is the sense of ambition and adventure.|
|Source:||Sue Wilson: The Sunday Herald *****|
|Review:||Sure to be a hot item on Scottish folkies' Christmas lists, the long awaited album from the unofficial "Scottish National Folk Orchestra", as captured during their inaugural tour earlier this year, continues the legend in the making that is The Unusual Suspects. The project's reputation precedes it: the brainchild of jazz/folk whizz-kids Corrina Hewat (clarsach/vocals) and David Milligan (piano). It was triumphantly premiered at Celtic Connections in 2003, brought back by popular demand 12 months later, and after sellouts and standing ovations throughout its UK tour, made its international debut at Canada's Celtic Colours festival in October. The basic concept was quite simple: assemble the best of contemporary Scottish folk talent (plus a few like-minded jazzers by way of a sizzling horn section and a truckload of percussion) and orchestrate sets of tunes and songs written or selected by the participants - and away you go. Sheer force of numbers alone would have delivered plenty of memorable music, but what heightens the experience further is the sense of ambition and adventure. No Cd could hope fully to capture the electrifying atmosphere of the live shows, but this one comes pretty close: any time you need a lift during these dark winter days, this is guaranteed to do the trick.
|Title:||This really is an adrenalin rush featuring 22 of Scotland’s finest ‘folk’ based musicians who perform with such passion and vigour that you get the feeling they’ve all got a point to prove.|
|Review:||Unusual Suspects – Live In Scotland (Footstompin’ Records CDFSR1727)
Catch this runaway train while you can! The Unusual Suspects rip it up from the opening track ‘The Big Set’ and hardly allow you to sit down for a moment after that. This really is an adrenalin rush featuring 22 of Scotland’s finest ‘folk’ based musicians who perform with such passion and vigour that you get the feeling they’ve all got a point to prove. Maybe that point is that we’re proud of our heritage and we want everyone to know it. The cast assembled under the guiding light of Corrina Hewat (harp & vocals) and David Milligan (piano) read like a who’s who including Catriona MacDonald, Eilidh Shaw and Aidan O’Rourke on fiddles, Annie Grace and Rory Campbell on pipes and whistle a horn section and the percussive beats of James Mackintosh and Donald Hay. This is real kick ass music that can leave you sweating one minute then astonish you the next with the subtlety of the song ‘Sae Will We Yet’ that has a touch of a George Michael track to sweeten all the energetic stuff. Given Hewat and Milligan’s influence it isn’t surprising that there is more than a touch of jazz sprinkled liberally throughout the recording and that’s probably where the group will differ from say the English equivalent Bellowhead. Given the nightmare it must have taken for Dave Gray and live engineer Cammy Young to capture everything for posterity I can honestly say this album will sweep any cobwebs away and leave the listener refreshed and uplifted. Well, if you hadn’t guessed it already I really enjoyed this recording and that, as the saying goes, is an understatement! More details from the band’s website http://www.unusualsuspects.uk.com or the record company at http://www.footstompin.com
|Title:||La Bottine Souriante in kilts|
|Review:||Anyone out there remember Clan Alba? No? Well, this is similar. But different. The Unusual Suspects are twenty-two of the great and good in Scottish music, united by the musical direction of Corrina Hewat and David Milligan. Recorded in front of a home crowd, much of this album is simply great. Some of it is merely good.
For openers there's an eight-minute canter through the charming Wee Michael's March and six reels, marvellous music and tight as a Jacobite corset except for The Pirriwig when the stays come unlaced a little. The first song is a valiant three-voice interpretation of Donald MacGillivray which lacks the guts of the definitive Silly Wizard version. Sae Will We Yet is much more compelling, strong vocals over a subdued accompaniment. In between, Charlie McKerron's full-bodied Bulgarian Red joins session favourites The Waves of Rush and Wes & Maggie's Ceilidh Croft. Next up is a steamy swampy sax solo from Phil Bancroft: not sure why it's there, maybe to give the guitarists time to re-tune, but it's a wee cracker. Track 6 is a mixed bag with some great piping moments: The Twisted Bridge and Lexie MacAskill are spot on, but those laces will not stay fastened and the line between experimental and execrable has been misjudged in one or two of the saxophone parts.
Fiddle Frenzy is a bit of fun, finishing with Clare McLaughlin's catchy romp Mince in a Basket. John Morran's unassuming vocals on Cold Blow are nicely matched with Rory Campbell's reel There's Time to Wait, and the long intro to Donald MacLeod's Reel is more than made up for by The Islay Ranters, another McKerron tune. The Heights of Casino recalls an even more evocative treatment by Smalltalk, and by the end of the track things are really buzzing again with Jock the Box. Another barbershop song brings everyone back down to earth, then the big encore: The Famous Baravan on twin turbo pipes, building to a thunderous full-on climax, and it's all over bar the shouting.
Without a doubt, this is a CD you should hear. Comparisons are ubiquitous, so let's run a few up the bass drone and see who sues. La Bottine Souriante in kilts. Battlefield meets the Blues Brothers. Keltik Elektrik unplugged. The Whistlebinkies wired. Ceolbeg on Class A drugs. Shooglenifty sober. Take your pick - they're all good today.
|Title:||a wonderful piece of noise, with a combination of wild tune sets, and excitingly arranged traditional songs, several of them actually very quiet.|
|Review:||The Unusual Suspects" could be seen as the Scottish response to the genius Norwegian folk big band Chateau Neuf Spelmansslag - they perform Scottish traditional music in a big band format, with contemporary music influences. Directed by the acclaimed duo Corrina Hewat (harp & vocals) and David Milligan (piano), the band brings together 22 of the most talented musicians from the Scottish music scene, with representatives from most of the important Scottish folk bands. I can count in the line up, apart from harp and piano, six fiddles, three pipes/whistles, two accordions, four singers, a brass section with 2 trumpets, a sax and a trombone, plus guitar, bouzouki, drums and percussion. To pick just 6 musicians, to give you a flavour of the profile of the band: Chris Stout, Bruce MacGregor, Rory Campbell, Phil Bancroft, Annie Grace, John Morran.The result is often impressive, a wonderful piece of noise, with a combination of wild tune sets, and excitingly arranged traditional songs, several of them actually very quiet. In particular the combination of brass and folk instruments makes often a very groovy sound. However, some numbers sound incredibly shrill, like the Bass Strathspey Set, where you have a number of pipes and brass instruments competing in who sounds more noisy and shrill - not necessarily a delight for the ears. While several tunes are very high profile and arranged with great ideas, The Unusual Suspects do not have yet the same sophistication that Chateau Neuf Spelmanslag has. The album was recorded live, and this is also what the Unusual Suspects are about. No doubt in live this band is unforgettable, full of fire and inspiration. The CD gives probably only a bit of an idea what this band is about - yet I would not have liked to miss out on this special album.Homepage of the artist: www.unusualsuspects.uk.comMichael Moll..FolkWorld
|Title:||this superb album succeeds in recreating some of the joy and exhilaration of their live performance.|
|Source:||Delyth Jenkins: Taplas|
|Review:||Could it be something in the water or the whisky, or the Celtic blood coursing through their Scottish veins? Maybe it's the support of the Scottish Arts Council and Folkworks? Or perhaps a combination of all of these, added to a certain indefinable smile or magic? Whatever it is, the Scottish music scene is buzzing at the moment. And two of the main players in this rennaissance are Corrina Hewat and David Milligan, core members of the wonderful Bachue who get better and better with each outing.....
Hewat and Milligan are also prime movers in the mighty and glorious Scottish big-band phenomenon The Unusual Suspects. The cast list in this 22 piece band features some of the finest of Scotland's young musicians.
Superlatives are woefully inadequate to describe the pure joy of this live album. Take for example the first track, "The Big Set". From an intimate opening, it develops through seven wonderful tunes to an exhilaratingly energetic finale. With a mixture of traditional and newly composed material, there are plenty of opportunities for individual musicians to shine in between the 'big band' sound, although this 'folk orchestra' is no place for egos or superstars.
The brass section brings La Bottine Souriante to mind. Particularly enjoyable is the raw energy of the "Bass Strathspey Set", with its dialogue between sax and bagpipes. And among the vocal highlights is the close harmony singing of Karine Polwart's "Follow the Heron", which is surely set to become a classic.
These musicians are having such a ball! And the audience is ecstatic. The Unusual Suspects is best savoured live, but if you are one of the poor, unfortunate souls who missed the gig of a lifetime, when they appeared at Aberdare in 2004, then this superb album succeeds in recreating some of the joy and exhilaration of their live performance.
|Title:||the intricacy of the layers of playing all woven together is spine tingling.|
|Review:||The Celtic 22 piece big band in all their glory recorded live in Inverness and Edinburgh last year. It’s some project to get this many top musicians working together with music that flows and storms from traditional to new with both energy and skill. Apart from the sheer power that radiates from this the intricacy of the layers of playing all woven together is spine tingling. Excellent.|
|Title:||It is a marvellous concept mixing folk and jazz players in this way and a wonderfully wild and exhilarating sound.|
|Source:||Graham McDonald - Canberra Times|
|Review:||This is a live recording of a 'one-off' project that brought together 22 of the best of Scotland's younger folk and jazz players to form a big band for a tour around Scotland at the beginning of last year. Musical Directors were harpist Corrina Hewat and pianist David Milligan, recently in Australia with concertina player Simon Thoumire. The band consists of six fiddlers, three pipers/whistle players, two accordions, a four piece horn section and five rhythm players.
It is a lot of people to have on stage, and at times it gets a little chaotic with a lot going on. The melody playing is left mostly to the traditional instruments with horns doing what horn sections do. It is a marvellous concept mixing folk and jazz players in this way and a wonderfully wild and exhilarating sound.
|Title:||The Unusual Suspects are the best thing in Scottish music since the Celtic Connections festival itself...|
|Source:||The Times: Unusual Suspects 'Live' at Celtic Connections 2007|
|Review:||The Unusual Suspects are the best thing in Scottish music since the Celtic Connections festival itself.
It’s more of an idea than a regular line-up judging by the number of new faces on display at the festival’s closing weekend. But what a great idea it is — nothing less than a Celtic Big Band, adding a four-piece horn section, half a dozen fiddles, extra rhythm and percussion and other doublings to more conventional arrangements.
First and foremost, the sheer numbers do make for a joyful noise. But it is far more than that. This is an idea that people are currently trying to emulate all over the Celtic music world. A Breton outfit at the beginning of the festival had lots of people including a brass section but succeeded in being just as dull as before only louder.
The secret, apart from the tiny detail that all the players should be good enough to have bands or solo careers of their own, is in the arrangements and orchestrations, mainly by the pianist David Milligan and the harpist Corinna Hewat. The way they use the brass in particular, two trumpets, an alto sax and a trombone, is extremely sophisticated, much aided by Rick Taylor, the vastly experienced trombone player.
Using mostly existing tunes but drawing on lots of jazz influences, the brass is often a sustained choir while whoever is carrying the melody is chattering away. Together, they add colour, depth and the kind of variety that traditional music, with the best will in the world, sometimes lacks.
The band was cheered to the echo by a delirious crowd, partly because this was such a rare treat. We happily subsidise 80-piece symphony orchestras but, apart from some start-up money, no one at the funding bodies seems to grasp that a 22-piece band of any kind faces similar challenges. As a result the Unusual Suspects are not often rounded up.
However, the band is to headline the 50th anniversary celebrations of the European Union in Berlin next month, playing to an anticipated crowd of 25,000 at the Brandenburg Gate, which should raise their profile a notch.
Reviewed by Robert Dawson Scott for The Times: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/live_reviews/article1341385.ece
|Title:||No frills and lots of thrills.|
|Review:||I went to this band's first gig at Celtic Connections a few years ago and loved it. This CD captures all the energy of their live performance and produces lots of thrills. This is Scottish music is so exciting it left me breathless. Buy it now!|
|1/1||The Big Set|
|1/2||Donald MacGillavry (trad)|
|1/4||Sae Will We Yet (words W. Watson)|
|1/5||Solo (P. Bancroft/E. Vernal)|
|1/6||Bass Strathspey Set|
|1/8||Cold Blow (trad)|
|1/11||Follow The Heron (K. Polwart)|
|Deliver to:||United Kingdom|