Monday 22 May 2017


CD Review

The Seventh Wave

Scots band Skipinnish is looking to tap into the power of legend and folklore with their new album The Seventh Wave. The story goes that the seventh wave is the biggest and strongest of any which have gone before.

The band Skipinnish
It’s certainly true their seventh album is packed with class music and they create a full bodied sound, going for the big production while keeping the elements of their traditional music at the forefront.

Band members Andrew Stevenson and Alasdair Murray are part of a movement which has done what many would have thought impossible and made bagpipes cool bordering on rock ‘n’ roll.

The opening track, Alive, comes in with the gentle tones of Norrie MacIver but is soon pushed into life with Rory Grindlay’s drums. It’s a taste of what’s to come with the big sound hitting you full on right from the start and with more than a few hints at the versatility and diversity of sound they put together.

If you had any doubts this band was borne out of Scottish traditional music then medley, The Hag, should dispel them as a tidal wave of pipe music comes thundering in. Four tunes give you plenty to get your teeth into and give an insight into the range of this much decried instrument.

In complete contrast comes the mellower tone of Harvest of the Homeland, written by Angus MacPhail and MacIver whose whisky smooth voice provides the thoughtful lyrics backed by his co-writer on vocals. The song builds up slowly to go out on the packed sound they do so well.

It’s hard to think of an album of Scottish music being conceived without the mention of a body of water somewhere and Skipinnish do not disappoint.

Ocean of the Free is a fast-paced and contemporary folk tune from MacPhail and Robert Robertson. The fiddle playing of Archie McAllister dances lightly under the vocals as Grindlay’s powerful drumming pushes the rhythm along.

There is another change of pace for The Iolaire which is a thoughtful and poignant song of longing to be back home. MacIver’s voice is filled with emotion as he sings towards the finale where the haunting voice of Caitlin L R Smith, backed by a full choir, makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention.
The band in concert

Another track from MacPhail and Robertson, December, manages to create some powerful images through the lyrics. The sound leans more towards the country style but the accordion and the pipes keep the Scottish roots evident.

The Old Woman is another medley which brings five tunes together and this time the whistle’s bringing in the lively sound. From this the blend of accordion, whistles, drums and the final introduction of the pipes never really let up on the listener and, if by the end of it all, you are not at the very least tapping your feet then make a doctor’s appointment - something is clearly wrong!

MacIver has a really smooth voice which carries a touch of melancholy in everything he sings and you can hear it clearly in the The Island (Intro) which gives way to the full body of the song while picking up the pace to bring an uplifting and bouncy tale of reminiscing about younger days gone by.

Home on the Sea is another song of longing to be home. It’s one of those songs you can easily see seeping into the local consciousness and being sung in pubs up and down the highlands.

Alba is probably the most contemporary sounding track on the album and apart from the strong accents in the vocals doesn’t really put its Scots credentials on display.

With Walking on the Waves you are brought back to the quiet shore with the distinct sound of the accordion. The song is soon filled out with the hammering of the drums just in case you thought the pace was too slow.

The album goes out with two traditionally arranged tracks. Starting with McNab‘s Set coming with four tunes which let the pipes off the leash. The skills of Stevenson and Murray are given free rein on these tunes, and they take full advantage.

They save the longest track until last with Crò Chinn, t-Sàile. The tune is given a haunting and melancholy timbre by the gentle accordion play and the lone pipes add to the atmosphere.

The new album
It’s almost as if they are creating a farewell to the listener as you see the band drift gently off and being gradually engulfed by the mist covering a perfectly calm highland loch. If you are going to end an album with a notable track, then this is the way to do it.

You cannot underestimate the popularity of this band and if you want proof then bear in mind it has already reached No.25 in the main-stream UK download charts and hit No.1 in the World Music chart, the people have spoken.

The Seventh Wave is out now and available from the band's website and distributors Highland, Gordon Duncan and Skipinnish Records.

If you want to see them live then on May 27 get down to The Bearded Festival, Derby. The following night, May 28, they play Biggar Rugby Club. Then on June 2 you can see them at Oban Live, followed on June 24 at Strathpeffer. Then on July 1 they will perform at Arran Whisky Festival moving on July 7 to Moonbeams Festival, East Yorkshire. On July 14 and 15 they will bring their sound to Tiree Music Festival.

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