Brìghde Chaimbeul’s debut album The Reeling (via the Islay Sessions)

Islay Music

This weekend I’m going to see Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton (supported by Jenn Butterworth and others) at the south coast of England. Which inspired me to write another post about an artist I got to know through the Islay Sessions (which makes it a post for this blog). In case you’re wondering what the connection is: Brìghde has played together with Ross (not sure if she has played with Ali as well), here’s a nice recording:

ROSS AINSLIE, BRIGHDE CHAIMBEUL and STEVEN BYRNES

But now to the real topic of this post, to Brìghde Chaimbeul‘s debut album, The Reeling. It was published in January 2019 to very positive reviews, for example in the Guardian. I’m not sure if she played any of it during the Islay Sessions in November 2018, but what I heard certainly motivated me to buy the album on release day. Here’s a (rather low quality, as it was recorded with a mobile phone) short snippet from her performance at the Islay Sessions in Bruichladdich Hall (my lack of musical skills don’t allow me to identify the tune):

Brìghde Chaimbeul and Innes White at the Islay Sessions (low quality mobile phone snippet)

Back to the album, it’s available on various download/streaming services (I bought it on Google Play as that’s what I use mostly) and you can buy a CD/LP from Rough Trade. If you’d like to get an impression before you buy you can hear some (or all if you have a Spotify account) here:

If that’s not enough, here’s a video with one of the songs from the album:

Isn’t that a beautiful rich tune? I’ve listened to the album many times now and will listen many times again. I’m not sure about any upcoming gigs by Brìghde, but I’m sure they’ll be mentioned on her social media accounts: Brìghde Chaimbeul on Facebook and Brìghde Chaimbeul on Twitter.

Gráinne Brady’s debut album The Road Across the Hills (via the Islay Sessions)

Islay Music

Something slightly outside of the normal content of this blog, but then there’s a good chance that without the Islay Sessions I wouldn’t have heard of this album (and others I will write about some other time). So I think it does fit into this blog. I’ve known Gráinne Brady for a number of years now, performing at and organising the wonderful Islay Sessions. Early on she was mainly performing together with other artists, last year saw her launching a solo project with her debut album. I’ll let her tell you about it herself:

Gráinne Brady: BEYOND: The Story of an Irish Immigrant

The Islay Sessions saw the second ever live performance of the album, Gráinne supported by Andrew Waite and Innes White. It was a great experience, her telling us about the project and then performing it, taking on parts of the spoken word as well. Some great musical storytelling. Here’s a short snippet (mobile phone recording, so not the greatest quality) from the sessions, just to give you an impression:

Gráinne supported by Andrew and Innes at the Islay Sessions

If this got you interested, Gráinne is going on tour in Ireland and Scotland in late February and March 2019. Here is her tour poster:

Tour poster for Gráinne Brady's spring tour 2019 with dates and more
Gráinne spring tour 2019 poster

I hope you get a chance to see one of her concerts and buy the album (Gráinne on Bandcamp). For updates check her website and her social media accounts (Gráinne Facebook, Gráinne Twitter).

Getting ready for the Islay Sessions 2018

Islay MusicStill two weeks to go until the Islay Sessions 2018 music festival, but as I will be leaving a bit earlier for Islay than in previous years I decided to get this post in now. If you’re on Islay 23-25/Nov/2018, as of writing this there were still some tickets available, although not for all events.

Islay Sessions 2018 poster

Looking forward to seeing Gráinne Brady again (having seen her at several Islay Sessions over the years), this time launching her solo album (I believe that session is sold out now).

One ‘new’ (as in new for me) artist I’m very much looking forward to is Brighde Chaimbeul. I had heard of her through Hamish Napier (who I had seen at another Islay Session a number of years ago). Here’s a taster of her playing together with Innes White (who will also play with her on Islay):

That’s all I’ve got for now. Hope to see you at the Islay Sessions or if not elsewhere on Islay in the two weeks leading up to them.

Islay Pipe Band at the British Championships 2018 in Paisley

Islay MusicThe Islay Pipe Band is busy with the competition season at the moment. Yesterday they performed at the first competition for the season, the British Championships in Paisley, achieving a very respectable 8th place (out of 14) in Grade 2. Here’s a video of their performance:

They were only one point behind the 7th place, but 4 points ahead of the joint 9th/10th place. Hopefully a successful season ahead of them.

Islay Sessions memories with Jenn & Laura-Beth

Islay MusicLiving and working in the south of England I don’t get many opportunities to hear live traditional/folk music, in particular from the vibrant Scottish scene. The main opportunity for me are my regular Islay visits, in particular the Islay Sessions when I can. That’s where I got to know Jenn & Laura Beth in November 2017 (after hearing Laura-Beth back in 2015). The sound quality isn’t as good as I would have liked (my microphone or more likely my recording capabilities struggled with the louder sections), but here’s a nice memory from the concert at Bruichladdich Hall:

Now here are some good news for those living in the south of England who would like to hear the two live and/or refresh memories from the Islay Sessions: They will play two shows in the south in early March.

I’ve got a ticket for the latter, very much looking forward to the concert! If you live further north (or in Belgium, they are coming over in Sep) check their website for further shows.

Update:

Unfortunately these two concerts (and more) had to be cancelled due to the “Beast fae the East” and “Storm Emma”, I hope they can be rescheduled for some other time. As a tiny consolation I’ll try to edit the remaining footage I’ve got from the Islay Sessions this weekend and get them uploaded.

Islay Sessions 2017 video #1: At the Port Charlotte Hotel

Islay MusicAlmost a month since the event and I finally managed to get my act together to edit my first longer video from the Islay Sessions 2017. I’ve decided to go slightly out of sequence and start with the later evening sessions in the bar of the Port Charlotte Hotel, where everyone gathered after Adam’s and Mark’s Concert in the Conservatory (which I’m aiming to edit next).

The musicians include Adam Sutherland, Marc Clement, Jenn and Laura-Beth, members of Tannara (and Megan MacDonald), Gráinne Nic Bhrádaigh, Emma Tomlinson as well as Ron and Mhairi from the Joy Dunlop Trio. I hope I haven’t missed/forgotten anyone…

But now it’s really time for the video, half an hour of beautiful tunes, laughter and joy:

I hope you’ll enjoy the tunes and the video transports a bit of the joy of the evening into your lounge, study or wherever you’re reading and watching this. More to come over the next few weeks.

Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook launched

Islay MusicSometimes a delayed ferry can be a good thing. I’m usually booked on the afternoon ferry when leaving after one of my Islay visits. This November visit Calmac called to inform me that due to delays in the dry dock (the MV Hebridean Isles was having her annual overhaul) the one ferry timetable would be running slightly longer and they had to move me to a ferry leaving in the evening. Initially I wasn’t too happy as it meant I would arrive at my hotel (which I had already booked and paid on one of those non-changeable, non-refundable deals) much later than planned, but then an unexpected benefit turned up:

As it turned out the long anticipated launch of the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook took place the afternoon of the day I was leaving. Under normal circumstances I would have missed it, but because I was now on a later ferry I was able to attend.

The launch took place at the Islay House in Bridgend, a very nice venue for the event. After some mingling and chatting with various people in the foyer we were asked to move over into one of the rooms for the main launch event. Lynn MacDonald opened the proceedings, talking about how the project came to pass and more. Kenneth Thomson spoke about some of the songs and poems included in the collection and how he came across some of them. Finally a representative from Acair Books (unfortunately I’m not sure of her name) spoke about working on the project and the importance of recording the old Gaelic songs and poems. Then it was time for some of the songs. Various singers including Mòd Gold Medal winner 2017 Alasdair Currie sang a variety of songs, some with audience participation. After the music we enjoyed a few biscuits and cup of tea/coffee while talking about the event and buying our copies of the songbook. A very enjoyable afternoon!

The songbook itself is a lovingly collated and designed book, not only for singers and Gaelic speakers, but for everyone (including me who doesn’t know much Gaelic apart from a few words and is musically challenged). Each song receives two pages, on the left are the notes, on the right the words in both Gaelic as well as an English translation. Various beautiful black and white pictures of Islay are spread through the book. Lynn and Kenneth provide an introduction and foreword while at the end of the book we find author biographies. The songbook is ring bound, as someone explained to me that makes it easier to place it on a note stand when performing a song.

A collage of impressions of the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook
Impressions from the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook

You can buy the songbook at local outlets on Islay (I know C&E Roy stock it, there might be others) as well as online at the publisher Acair Books. For more information visit the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook Facebook page or follow the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook Twitter feed.

To finish here’s a video with some of the performances from the launch event at Islay House:

(Sorry for the shaky video, I had to handheld my mobile phone as I had run out of memory on my main video camera)

From the Islay Sessions 2017

Sadly that’s the Islay Sessions 2017 almost over. Off to the bar in a minute after a fantastic concert in the conservatory by Innes Watson (with the help of a few friends at the end):

This was filmed with the phone, I hope the quality is reasonable. I’m hoping to upload more video from a better camera later once I had the time to edit it.

The sessions were amazing, great artists delivering fantastic performances. More later.

Islay Sessions 2017 coming up in November

Islay MusicLess than a month to go to the Islay Sessions 2017 taking place in Port Charlotte and Bruichladdich. And after having to miss it last year due to my heart operation I’ll be back to enjoy them even more this year. This years programme includes a variety of artists, some I’ve seen before, others will be new to me.

Picture of Adam Sutherland and Laura-Beth Salter performing on stage
Adam and Laura-Beth enjoying a tune during the Islay Sessions 2015

The Islay Sessions 2017 start on Friday 17/Nov with a Concert in the Conservatory at the Port Charlotte Hotel. Adam Sutherland and Mark Clement will be performing. After the concert there will be informal sessions in the Port Charlotte Hotel bar, I expect until late into the night.

There will be workshops on Saturday morning, the participants will then also perform at the big concert on Saturday evening 18/Nov at Bruichladdich Hall. I hope many local musicians young and old will join Tannara, the Joy Dunlop Trio and Jenn & Laura Beth.

The weekend will close with another Concert in the Conservatory at the Port Charlotte Hotel on Sun 19/Nov (followed by more informal sessions in the bar I hope), this time with Innes Watson.

Picture of Innes Watson playing guitar at the Islay Sessions
Innes Watson playing guitar at the Islay Sessions 2015

I understand there will also be a whisky tour during the weekend, details haven’t been posted yet as of writing this. Check the Islay Sessions Twitter account and the Islay Sessions Facebook page for updates. For tickets to the concerts go to the Islay Sessions Eventbrite page.