Friday, 18 September 2015

ROSS AINSLIE

CD Review

Remembering

Ross Ainslie comes with an impressive musical pedigree as a founding member of the Treacherous Orchestra, a brace of nominations in the Radio2 Folk Awards and has made a big impression working with Jarlath Henderson among many others.

Ross Ainslie
He is, and deservedly so, well respected in traditional Scottish music circles and this album is him moving out of his comfort zone which isn't necessarily always a good idea.
The opening track Change has all the right elements in terms of instrumental structure and it is a personal song for Ainslie, alluding to his move from drinking days to going on the waggon.
The trouble is the lyrics are just a little monotonous and you ask yourself would it have been better as an instrumental?
Unfortunately it doesn't get any better with the next track it sounds like he is trying too hard to make the traditional Scottish music fit into a pop song guise. Steven Byrnes, a fellow TO musician, on vocals has a gentle voice with the slight nasal tone similar to Kris Drever but unfortunately he doesn't have the depth and intonation Drever brings to his performances.
Individually the musicians which include Ali Hutton. Hamish Napier, Jock Duncan, Laura-Beth Salter and Laura Wilkie are spot on but on the odd occasion instead of something exciting and colourful it does tend to be dragged down by the singing.
Thankfully it does get better and with Lullaby For Mel they really show their strengths as a band, gelling together to produce a strong traditional sounding musical piece which is both restful and thoughtful and where Wilkie is particularly noticeable along with Ainslie's beautiful whistle playing.
Jock Duncan
When Dreaming Daisy opens it does have the feel of an Andy Irvine number. Salter's mandolin skills certainly leave their mark but again the track as a whole seems to be trying to appeal to the pop market.
Some of the tracks seem to want to keep a foot in both camps of which neither stance works.
With the title track the band goes back to the instrumental side and it works, it's the longest track on the album and that just adds to the enjoyment.
Ainslie gets a chance to show his superb talent on the whistle and the gentle tune carries you away with it showing how the collective really gel as musicians, lyrics on this track would just have been an intrusion.
Hutton opens Skins quickly followed by Ainslie on the whistle again as they keep the fast-paced tune flying along, not quite a foot tapper but certainly one that can get your head bobbing and and sets you thinking this is the kind of traditional music you can get on board with.
There is a wonderful gem with Jock Speaks with his Scottish accent so broad many will need subtitles to understand what he is saying, but there is such character in the man's voice it's worth listening to the track, which is less than a minute long, more than once. Following on from this Head High is a track where the vocals really work, they are clean, concise and come in distinct blocks and fit in perfectly with the music underneath to make it one of the best, if not the best track on the album. This almost segues into Nowhere To Go which comes in three parts A, B and C.
Ainslie's new album
It's a slightly unusual but extremely likable ballad where John Somerville's accordion is keeping a neat rhythm under the lyrics.
Part B keeps the rhythm but deepens the tempo and gives it a slightly rockier feel and with Part C, it gets edgier before moving into a more of a country sound.
The band seems to be pulling all the stops out for the big finish.
It's always a risky business when you take your talent into relatively unknown territory, it can either produce something impressive or blow up in your face. Ainslee on this occasion has got a bit of both.
You have to give him credit for going out on a musical limb when it works it's fine music when it doesn't it's a bit dull, fortunately the fine outweighs the dull on this album.

Remembering is out now on the Great White Records label.