If you wanted proof that Scottish accordionist Gary Innes has been busy then bear in mind it's been twelve years since his last solo album. During that time he has been involved in myriad projects, not least of which is Mànran who recently released their new album An Dà Là - The Two Days.
Kicking off with a triplet, Yarra Wine Valley/The V1P Party/The Herring, the opening of the first part sounds remarkably like that of Foreigner's Cold as Ice, which comes in with a strong strumming beat before Innes' accordion lifts the whole thing.
The opener is a complex piece with Innes putting his accordion skills on show very early in the album and like many a good Celtic tune it was inspired by the grapes of the valley.
The second part is slightly more sedate before he picks up the pace for the final third of the track.
Innes' solo composition The Road to Lochaber is a musical vision of the scenery which passes by during his many journeys home and while, unless you have driven the same road, it may be difficult to visualise all he is trying to capture in his music, you do get a sense of the sweeping majesty which characterises many of the Scottish landscapes.
There is a laid-back feeling to his playing as though he is replaying each stage of the journey in his mind through his bellows. It does give the feel of a sprawling vista opening slowly as the trip continues.
Innes was, to say the least, enamoured of the Scottish game shinty from which he retired because of work commitments. With Caman Man it's obvious Innes sees it as much more than a game but as very much part of his Scottish makeup and a microcosm of Scotland itself. Robert Robertson lets rip with his deep, resonant yet wonderfully lyrical voice.
The thumping beat and drumming cadence of the tune gives is a jingoistic feel and there is real passion both in the music and the words.
This is followed by a doublet of Crazy Street/An Aird. The light dancing tune, which was inspired by a festival in Brittany, does have a manic element about it and Innes admits it was so crazy that he almost got pregnant there, so make of that what you will.
The second half harks back to his youthful days of playing shinty where An Aird was his home ground and he recognises that while his love of the game has not diminished the march of time cannot be ignored.
May Life Always Be Peachy is a very personal tune, written for his brother "Goose's" wedding and the "Peachy" referred to in the title was his brother's affection name for his bride.
The gentle waltz was specially written as their first dance as a married couple and if it was played with the pipes and full sound you get here, then the newlyweds' first dance must have been a real belter of an occasion.
|The traditional Scottish sport of shinty|
The duo of tunes begins with one inspired by a painting of Innes on the wall of an Inverness music venue where people claim he looks like the former US president. There is not hint of this faux American connection in the tune but it is a light and likeable offering which is kept dancing by the expert touch of Innes on his keys.
The second part refers to the bench where he proposed to his fiancee Hannah, whom he says cried so much that it was three days before the fact she had said yes had sunk in.
There is a gentle and romantic feel to the first part of the tune but you then get a definite dance of joy as the pace quickens and you can almost pinpoint in the track when he popped the question.
Siobhan Miller, who herself has just released a solo album Strata, provides the slightly smoky and gritty voice for this song of Innes' niece Zara who inspired the family during a stressful and worrying time.
One thing you notice about Innes he never holds back and even though the track was about a four month old child, the tune gives her plenty of room to grow into it.
Talking of going big, Innes packs in four songs into the next track and really lets rip with his accordion skills. If there was ever any doubt about his competence and ability to squeeze every ounce of sound out of his bellows then this track should dispense with them.
When you listen to the pace and complexity of the playing you almost feel he has more than one pair of hands. The precision and accuracy of the notes mixed with the speed reminds of Sam Pirt of The Hut People who plays most of his tunes like the devil is chasing him.
Grace and Pride was inspired both by the chance for Scotland to gain independence and Innes' disappointment when the vote wasn't the result he wanted.
Alec Dalglish's voice sings of the history and feeling which went into the push for the break of ties, with Innes' accordion carrying along the lyrics underneath.
|The new album|
It is a rousing and emotive tune and once you know the story behind it, even more so. Monies raise by the tune went to Erskine, Scotland's veterans charity.
There is no two ways about it Era can be seen as a potted map of Scotland seen through the eyes of Innes, but more than that the music is very personal.
What he has translated into his music is the crossing over from one era in his life to another, while bringing together the changes in his life as well as his sense of being a proud Scot. As one era of his shinty playing youth and working in the rescue service comes to an end so his new era, exemplified by his niece, his new life as a husband and the full time concentration on his music begins.
Era is available now from the artist's website, www.birnamcd.com and download sites
You can see Innes on the German leg of Mànran's tour throughout this month where on March 9 they play Leverkusen Scala, Uhlandstraße 9, Germany. Doors open 7pm and show starts 7.30pm. Tickets are €26 or €28. The following night, March 10, you can see them at Falkensee Stadthalle, Scharenbergstraße 15. Show starts 8pm and tickets range from €17.50 to €28.50. On March 11 they are off to Torgau Kulturhaus, Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz 16. Show starts 8pm and tickets are €24.50 or €18.50 with concessions.
Their next gig is on March 12 at Arnstadt Theatre am Schloß. Show starts 7pm. Then on March 13 the gig at Kulturwerk MSH., Eisleben is sold out. Their next show is on March 15 when they play Hapaghalle, Cuxhaven. Show starts 8pm and tickets start from €26.40. The following night, March 16, they will be performing at Kleines Theater, Bargteheide. Show starts 7.30pm.
On St Patrick's Day, March 17, you can catch them at Pumpwerk, Wilhelmshaven. Show starts 8pm and tickets range from €27.40 to €19. On March 18 you can see them at Lindenpark
Potsdam. Show starts 8pm and tickets range from €18 to €28. Unfortunately the gig on March 19 at Werner Richard Saal, Herdecke is SOLD OUT. The next gig is on March 21 at Park Theater, Kurhaus, Göggingen. Show starts 8pm and tickets ranger from €29 to €36 plus fees.
Then on March 22 it's a show at franz.K, Unter den Linden 23. Show starts 8pm and tickets are €24.15 in advance, €26 on the night and €21 with concessions. Next on March 23 it's on to Scala, Königsallee 43, Ludwigsburg. Doors open 7pm and show starts 8pm. Tickets are €22 and €27. The following night, March 24, they move on to Löwensaal, Hohenems, Austria. Show starts 8pm. Then on March 25 the band play Garching bei München, Bürgerpl. 9, Bürgerhaus. Show starts 8pm and tickets start from €26.40. To end the month on March 26 they play K1, Munastraße 1, Traunreut. Show starts 8pm.