Monday, 23 January 2017

MÀNRAN

CD Review

An Dà Là - The Two Days

After more than three years on the road Scottish band Mànran finally got to land in Glasgow and put together their new album which brings some of their travels to life musically along with the idea of great change.

From left, Ryan Murphy, Gary Innes, Mark Scobbie,
Craig Irving, Ewen Henderson and Ross Saunders
The six piece band, which is Gary Innes -accordion; Ewen Henderson - vocals, fiddle, pipes; Ross Saunders - bass, vocals;  Ryan Murphy - uilleann pipes, flute; Mark Scobbie - percussion and Craig Irving - guitar and vocals, seem be among a wave of Scots who are determined to push the boundaries of their traditional homegrown music. However, it has to be said there is more than a tinge of Irish influence in their work too.
The album opens with a triplet Fiasco, a traditional march Captain Grant and two written by band members Hard to Get and Fiasco.
It comes in quite ordinarily but just in case you were in any doubt this wasn't a Scottish/Gaelic album, in come the highland pipes which eventually give way to the uilleann drones.
Half way through, the tune is filled out further by Scobbie's percussion. The track gives way to Trod which is a fun piece telling a familiar tale of a husband in the doghouse due to his over indulgence. Sung in Gaelic the lively tune relates the row between the spouses and perhaps it's best the exchange won't be understood by most of us.
The band go back to the instrumental triplet for Inspector which consists of The Pot Inspector/MacLittle's March/Pushing Mist all of which were composed by members of the band.
One of the most remarkable aspects of folk music is that so many good pieces can be inspired by the most mundane of situations.
In the case of The Pot Inspector Innes composed it around Martin O'Neill, with whom he lived for a while, and his penchant for washing pots and pans.
The fast-paced tunes are produced with a modern feel but you can still feel the Celtic roots in their music particularly with Innes' lively accordion playing.
Pandora is a song from Canadian David Francey which the band picked up on their travels. The song is an indictment of the digital age and how every shade of opinion good, bad or indifferent is readily available.
They bring back the instrumental this time with four tunes, all but one inspired by something personal to each of the band members.
Murphy contributes Echo Falls, Innes The Double Stag and Little Vegas and the final piece 12 Weeks & A Day coming from Jarlath Henderson. Innes' accordion skill features heavily in the fast pace pieces as they hurry along driven by the strong drum beat.
Jarlath Henderson
They continue with a double feature in Autobahn the first inspired by the German motorway of the title. It's a million miles away from the Kraftwerk version of the same name and in fact through the pace doesn't give the impression of the speeds associated with the roads at all.
The cadence only picks up for the second half with Wee Ewan's Strathspey. Sung in Gaelic, the pace of words would test the lung capacity of the most proficient of rappers.
It does have that jumping beat you associate with highland dancers and towards the end they throw everything into going out with a bang.
In complete contrast, Fios chun á bhàird or Message to the Bard, while sung in Gaelic has a deep melancholic sound. The strong words in this epic song are underpinned by the accordion and uilleann pipes until once again the band fill out the tune for the big finish.
Innes brings in Alpha29, one of three tunes, with the distinctive sound of his accordion. Along with the traditional The Laird of Corrie and Going to Gruline his bellows feature heavily throughout. The Gaelic lyrics are breathtakingly speedy and seem to be almost racing the instruments to get to the finish line first.
Newest band member Irving gives his voice some exercise on I Shall Not Walk Alone a song from US musician Ben Harper. It's a straightforward ballad and apart from the uilleann inserts doesn't really fit into the mould of traditionally Scottish.
The title track comes from an old Gaelic expression meaning great change. Sung this time in Gaelic and English Henderson provides a gentle almost plodding song.
Although the song is about the unsettled and nervous times we live at first it doesn't convey any sense of fear or foreboding. However, the drums do bring in a feel of growing tension and as they take over from the singing the band goes for the full out instrumental break before gently bringing things back down.
The penultimate track, Strong Behaviour, is put together by Irving and Murphy from their travels in Australia.
The strong drum beat carries it along with the accordion and fiddle for what is a strangely restful piece that's easy to listen to.
The new album
The album goes out with a triplet The Hour Jig/Lochan na h-Achlaise/Great Torrington all of which have a really strong beat and carry along at a fair old pace.
The change comes when the pipes take centre stage and push the music even faster, the drums working up the musical frenzy to go out on the biggest sound of the album but instead of ending abruptly, which you expect, it sort of fizzles out.
Mànran is an album very close to the band and drawn together out of their experiences and along with this, and the overall use of Gaelic doesn't really make it inclusive.
Although it does a have a great deal of modern-style traditional music in there, unless you are into Scottish/Gaelic culture there isn't a great deal to draw you to the album which is a shame.
This said, the effort and enthusiasm exercised by the band in putting down their experiences in music is evident and for that alone is worthy of praise.


Mànran is available now on Mànran Records and can be bought from the band's website and online.

You can see the band live as they tour on March 3 at Crawfordjohn Village Hall, Crawfordjohn, South Lanarkshire. Show starts 8pm and tickets are £17 plus £1.70 booking fee. U-14s are £10 plus £1 booking fee. From there on March 4 they move to Nevis Centre, An Aird, Fort William. Doors open 8pm and tickets are £15. Then on March 8 you can see them as they take a tour of Germany starting at Illipse, Burgweg 2, Illingen, Germany. On March 9 they move on to Scala, Leverkusen. Then on March 10 they play Stadthalle, Falkensee. Followed on March 11 by a gig at Kulturhaus, Torgau. On March 12 it's off to Theater am Schloß, Arnstadt. March 13 they appear at Kulturwerk MSH, Eisleben. Then on March 15 you can see them play at Hapaghalle,Cuxhaven. This is followed on March 16 by a show at Kleines Theater, Bargteheide. On St Patrick's Day you can catch them at Pumpwerk, Wilhelmshaven. The following night, March 18 they play Lindenpark, Potsdam. Then on March 19 they appear at Werner Richard Saal, Herdecke. Two days later on March 21 you can see them perform at Parktheater Göggingen, Augsburg. Then on March 22 they play Kulturzentrum franz.K, Reutlingen. Then it's off to Scala, Ludwigsburg on March 23. They move on to Löwensaal, Hohenems, Austria, on March 24. Then it's back to Germany on March 25 to play Bürgerhaus, Garching. They round the month off on March 26 at K1, Traunreut.