It’s been a while and there’s been a lot happening so I thought I’d update you all on what I’ve been up to over the last wee while!
The summer kicked off back in June at a very rainy Southwell Festival, performing with Treacherous Orchestra and Jarlath Henderson.
I was delighted to be asked to record on Ewan Mclennan’s new album “Stories Still Untold” which is out now. You can buy it from his website. http://www.ewanmclennan.co.uk/shop
India Alba had a short tour back in June. Sadly Gyan Singh couldn’t join us for these shows, but we were delighted to be joined by Mike Black on Tabla. He managed to fit rehearsals and shows around his job cooking at Henderson’s restaurant in Edinburgh. We had some really nice gigs, finishing off in Mull at the Martyn Bennett weekend. Cheers to Donald Shaw who joined us on accordion for a couple of tunes.
The whole summer was full of crazy travelling but there were two particularly mental weekends, the end of June was one of them! Salsa Celtica were playing at Glastonbury! We flew down in time for a 5 o’clock sound check then managed to take in a bit of the festival, and what a festival it was! We went on stage just after midnight, the gig went brilliantly. We got back into the van straight after and headed off to the airport for a flight to Edinburgh. Myself and Eamonn Coyne picked up a car and drove to Glasgow to meet the Treacherous boys as we were heading to the Tayinloan ferry to get to the Isle of Gigha festival. I’ve played the Gigha festival a couple of times before but it was a long time ago so it was great to be back. The stage hasn’t got any bigger so as you can imagine, it was a cosy night on stage! A few of us had to get an early rib off the island to head down to Bannockburn for the 700 year celebrations. On the bill were the Cask Strength Ceilidh Band, Myself and Jarlath, Treacherous Orchestra and Julie Fowlis among others. It was great to catch a quick interview with our pal Hamish from Maui Celtic Radio.
Next up I flew out to Brussels for a gig with Jarlath Henderson at Gooikoorts festival, we had a couple of new recruits for this gig, Martin O’Neill on bodhran and Aileen Gobbi on fiddle and vocals. We were delighted to win the best band photo. Thanks to Melanie and everyone at the festival for looking after us.
The National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland asked Ali Hutton and myself to help them put together some new music. We arranged 4 workshops over July and ended up with 2 new sets. Cheers to everyone involved was a fun few days!
Jarlath and I then had a wee tour in Canada. We started off at the Winnipeg folk festival, then went on to Granville Island in Vancouver, and finished at Harrison Hot Springs.
We arrived back very early in Edinburgh then straight into a taxi to Glasgow to grab a quick shower and change of clothes before heading back out to the airport to fly to Spain to play with Treacherous at Ortigueira festival. I’d heard about this festival for years and was glad to eventually get over for it! Phil Cunningham was over doing some filming for a piping programme thats due out some time next year so our set was filmed and I did an interview for it earlier in the day. It was great see my good friend Anxo Lorenzo and his band and great to catch a tune on stage with them.
Glasgow hosted the Commonwealth Games this year and I was lucky to have a few gigs as part of Festival 2014, the Cultural side of the Games. The first was in Glasgow Green with Jarlath. This was an afternoon show – it was an absolute scorcher so not the best for the pipes but great to see Scotland so sunny! Well done to Breabach who performed after us with their new Scots/Kiwi project “Boomerang”. The second show was with Salsa Celtica. We played in the Old Fruitmarket for Team Scotland. Jarlath and I then played a again at BBC Pacific Quay for a live BBC Radio 3 recording at their festival site by the River Clyde.
Underneath the Stars was next for Treacherous. It’s a brand new festival organised by Kate Rusby’s brother Joe. Amazing hospitality from the Rusby’s, they certainly know how to do things right!
I then travelled to Warwick festival with Jarlath before heading south again the following weekend with Jar for Sidmouth Folk Festival. Ali Hutton was away playing with another band that weekend so cheers to Mike Bryan for filling in!
Earlier, I mentioned 2 mental travel times so here’s the second… It started off with a gig at Lorient Festival with Jarlath where we were joined by Mike Bryan on guitar, Euan Burton on Bass and James MacIntosh on drums – cheers to them for learning the stuff! We shared a gig with an amazing band called The Olllum in the Palais des Congres, then later headed to the Asturiain tent for an informal thrash with some guests including James Mackenzie on flute and Hamish Napier dancing. We didn’t get much sleep before getting back up to catch a train to Brussells to meet Salsa Celtica and play a big world music festival in Antilliaanse. Another day, another train. This time going back to Lorient to play at the festival again. This time the show was at the Lorient football stadium – a gig that I’ve wanted to do for years! We shared the gig with the Dublin Legends and the Strypes.
Eamonn Coyne and I got a flight to Southampton the following day to meet the Treacherous boys at a crazy festival called Boomtown. The guys were driving down from Glasgow and had some van trouble so they just made it in time for a quick sound-check before going straight onstage. Ali, Duncan, Andrea and I left straight after the gig to travel to the other side of London to catch a flight back to France the next day. We were heading to a festival in Tatihou near Normandy. The gig was great but had to catch a 5 hour bus journey to Paris after the gig for an early flight home in the morning! It was a hectic week but we played some great gigs!
I was delighted to get a couple of days rest before getting a flight down to Bristol to play with Jarlath and the boys at Wickham festival – big thanks to Eamonn Nugent for learning the set and joining us on bodhran. I’ve played the festival with various different line-ups over the years and always have a good time there, the backstage guys are really sound and they look after artists very well so thanks to them!
The day after, I flew out to Colindres, Cantabria in the North of Spain for a festival called Sauga Folk with my own Trio. Joining me for this trip was Mike Bryan on guitar and Gordy Duncan Jr on drums. I played the festival back in 2001 with Gordon Duncan (Gordy’s Dad and my teacher), Ali Hutton and Morgan Macdonald and it was probably the first real tour I ever did! It was great to go back, especially as wee Gordy was there too.
It was then back down south with Treacherous Orchestra to a festival called Off the Tracks. I’d played it before with Salsa Celtica, its a nice wee festival right next to Donington Race Track.
Eamonn Coyne and I travelled from Off the Tracks to Finland to meet up with the Salsa crew. We were playing at the Helsinki Festival in an amazing venue. Great gig altogether and the sound guys were really on the ball.
Blas festival followed Finland, and I had three shows there this year. The first two were with Jarlath, joined by Matheu Watson on guitar. We played in Roybridge then Eden Court in Inverness before I travelled to Oban for a show with Dougie Maclean. I rushed back to Glasgow after the Oban gig to catch a flight to Belgium to play with Jar and the boys at Alden Biesen Scottish Weekend. We always have a good time at the festival so thanks to Rik and all the guys there for getting us out again! The day after, I flew to Aberdeen to meet up with Dougie again for a gig in Aberdeen Music Hall. It was a great gig and there was an amazing excitement in the air as it was the last weekend before the Scottish Referendum. Great to see so many young folk out that night. The following day we went onto Union Street and played Caledonia.
A flying visit to Egypt was next. A one day visit – so short we didn’t even get to see the pyramids! Our flight was on the same day as the Scottish Referendum but luckily I managed to get my vote in before check-in. We went out for an amazing meal in Cairo before the gig – thanks to Cathy for looking after us! Ali and I both had a bit of luck playing roulette in the casino after the gig which picked up the spirits a bit following the news of the referendum result back home.
I spent the end of September with Charlie Mckerron and Marc Clement at the first Findhorn Bay Arts Festival, where we stayed in the amazing Newbold House in Forres http://www.newboldhouse.org. Shooglenifty were also playing so was nice to catch up with them and get a tune or two. We played at the Loft in Kinloss. Also on the bill were Douglas Lawrence, James Alexander and Willie and Tabs Macaskill, a real treat to play with them all!
I had a run of 11 gigs with Jarlath in October starting off at Feis Na Mara in Mallaig. I was there a few years ago with Treacherous Orchestra and we had a great time up there then – this time didn’t disappoint either! Thanks to Eilidh Shaw for inviting us. It was a pleasure to play a short set in Edinburgh at the Martyn Bennett Prize for traditional music composition. Congratulations to James Lindsay for winning this year. Towards the end of the tour we played at the Lowender Peran Festival in Cornwall. It was great to catch up with Gordon Duncan’s sister Moira and her husband Mick, huge thanks to them for cooking us a mammoth breakfast the next day.
The end of October means that it’s time for Dougie Maclean’s festival, Perthshire Amber. I had a few gigs again this year, the first was with my new band ‘Tunebook’ in Aberfeldy Town Hall. We had just received copies of our new album so it was great to be able to launch it at the festival. The band consists of Simon Bradley on fiddle, Mairearad Green on accordion, Matheu Watson on guitar, Mhairi Hall on piano and myself on whistle and pipes. If you’d like to order a copy you can do so from here http://www.tunebook.co.uk/shop/. Next there was the fiddle gig with Dougie and Pete Clark playing Dougie’s fiddle tunes and Matheu Watson and myself backing on guitar and cittern. I had a cheeky night off and managed to catch a great gig at Perth Concert Hall with Dougie and the RSNO – a real treat! The following day was the Dougie Maclean and Friends gig in Perth Concert Hall and I was delighted to play on Buddy Macdonald’s hit “Nobody Home” and to join Martin Carthy for a song.
Treacherous Orchestra have just finished a mini-tour, visiting London, Birnam, Inverness and Findhorn to release our new album “Grind” which is now ready. Pre-orders are available from here http://treacherousorchestra.bigcartel.com/product/treacherous-orchestra-grind-cd-album-2015
I’ve just got back from a very short trip to Australia with Jarlath and Ali we were playing at AWME a world music expo.
I’m now looking forward to working towards a very special show in January. I’ve been writing songs for the last year and am delighted to have been given a New Voices Commission at Celtic Connections where people will be able to hear them for the first time. Tickets are now available from http://www.celticconnections.com/events/Pages/event.aspx?ev=a43a9da8-9b7c-4487-9ba5-a3be0104882f
Thanks for reading, I’ll update again soon.
All the best