Wednesday 7 December 2016


CD Review


You could throw all kinds of superlatives at Ewan MacPherson and they would all fall short of the mark and this latest album is a point in case. The multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist has not only written most of the tracks but he has also produced the album.

Ewan MacPherson
With more than an hour of folk music which covers myriad styles and draws on a vast range of influences from all over the world, no one can say they don't get their moneys worth.
Liverpool-born MacPherson's heritage is as eclectic as his range of playing covering most of the Celtic tribes, and he has been plying his trade for more than two decades working with some of the most respected names in Scottish and Celtic music not least of which is band Shooglenifty.
Laying into his mandolin for the first track, Brutus the Husky/MacColl's, he brings a fast-paced opener to the album which carries a Turkish style sound which morphs into the more traditional on the back of Alasdair White's fiddle playing and Aaron Jones bouzouki.
The two tunes never let up but it does eventually give way to The Silver Tongues/Meall an Fhiodhain which has a much slower pace and with its small pipes carrying through the first part of the tune which has something of a medieval flavour. The second part keeps the pace but has a much more distinctive and repetitive cadence.
The jaw harp is so underused in folk music that whenever it surfaces or even takes centre stage it's always a rare treat. It's MacPherson on the harp which brings in the hypnotic Saltus with its mesmerising beat and repeating drone, you can almost see some tribal activity being played out while the music puts everyone in a trance.
The Cherry Tree Reel/Dog's Got An Itchy Nose starts off with the reel in almost a jazz style, a fusion you don't see too often, but then MacPherson doesn't seem to respect the convention of boundaries. The shift to the second part is almost unnoticeable except for the change of rhythm which gains a more jaunty feel.
What follows is a much softer and thoughtful tune Only The Burn Is Not Silent, which gives Ben Farmer a chance to bring in his melodeon skills. The guitar accompaniment gives a restful quality to the piece. Ruchenitza/Red Cyril starts off with a tune which is again Eastern sounding and has an urgency about it created by the mandolin.
A Hardanger fiddle
The tune adopts a more European feel and seems to lighten up for the second part with the high pitched strings keeping it easy on the ear. Coming next is the atmospheric Ranarim's Welcome To Scotland and the strangely titled Icy North Gutter Experiment.
The precise notes from Hannah Read's fiddle playing gives the tune a gypsy edge to begin with and carries with it the quality of a lament.
The second part becomes more undulating and the fiddle takes on a lighter dance-like timbre to carry the tune along.
This is followed by another double tune, The High Surge of the Sea/Caravan Up North. The first part of which starts off calmly but then of course the surge comes in and there is a lovely subtle undertone from the bodhran of Callum Convoy.
The pace slows for the second half as you can imaging having to lumber along with a caravan but it stays at somewhat of a jaunty pace, almost as if the occupants are singing to the tune as they roll along. As April is to Winter comes in very gently with MacPherson's soft guitar picking which creates an almost lazy sound.
Then the ponderous voice of the viola from Lauren MacColl brings a solemnity which gives the tune the style of a lament while at the same time infusing it with a luxurious feel.
There is a complete change with Cedar Dust as the tune hops in with the distinctive sound of the Hardanger fiddle, a complex and incredible looking instrument, which sings out in the expert hands of Sigrid Moldestad.
You can imagine the tune being played at a very refined dance where the proprieties are observed as they slide around to the tune.
There seems to be a mix of the Celtic and the European music for Dead End Glen with the fiddle providing the highland sound and the mandola keeping the sound from further afield.
It's back to the double helpings for Mad Mr MacPherson/Seamus the Camel which add to the list of wonderfully eccentric names.
MacPherson's new album
The melodeon takes centre stage for the first part, gently giving away to the mandolin before the two instruments work in tandem to take it through until the end.
The closing track, Holding the Whippet/The Torrents, on this fascinating album begins with a strong Celtic feel with the strings keeping a toe-tapping pace where you can almost see the tartan clad legs of feet dancing nimble between swords.
If you were not convinced you were surrounded by Celtic culture then in come the pipes to confirm it, picking up the pace and daring you to keep you feet still as the sound is filled out by a whole gamut of instruments.
There is so much packed into this one album that you will be hard pushed to take it all in with just one listening.
MacPherson creates complex sounds which when he has finished with them are extremely easy on the ear and yet provoke so many different images that it's almost alchemy. MacPherson is cosmopolitan, eclectic, clever, mulit-talented, incredibly creative and musically fearless which all really boils down him being a damn fine musician.

Fetch is out now on Shoogle Records. MacPherson will on tour during February 2017.

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