Thank you for the online Islay Sessions 2020 (in January 2021)

Islay Music

As mentioned previously the Islay Sessions 2020 had to move online due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Originally the plan was to hold them on the original weekend in November, but for various reasons that didn’t work out and the event had to be pushed out. Two days ago as of writing this it finally happened and the live stream went ahead. I put on my finest tartan, poured myself a wee dram and sat down in front of the computer to watch. While of course not as good as a real live event it was still a great evening! All credit to the organisers and the musicians for making this such an enjoyable event.

Greig Shaw was our host, I believe from his garden shed, which he had very nicely decorated for the event. Greig led us through the evening, talking about his late brother Fraser in whose honour the Sessions are now being held and very ably introducing the musicians. The musicians were be Daimh, Maeve MacKinnon, LB Salter & Jenn Butterworth and David Foley & Jack Smedley. Of course there was also a prize draw with some rare whiskies and other goodies.

The individual concerts were pre-recorded, which I think was a wise move. I’ve attended other online concerts, which were plagued with problems, sound and image being out of sync and more. Here the stream worked well and it was a joy to hear the musicians play as well as talk about their music.

As I had hoped the live chat was available, which I found very enjoyable. A lot of people I know personally as well as virtually were chatting while listening to the concert, many of the musicians joined in as well. Memories were exchanged, virtual rounds bought and more.

If you missed it or would like to see it again the Fraser Shaw Trust has made the whole event available on their YouTube channel (don’t forget to subscribe, if you haven’t yet):

Islay Sessions Complete Show

Thanks again to the Fraser Shaw Trust, all the organisers and all the musicians for such a wonderful evening. Hopefully we can see each other again in person soon for some real live music!

The Islay Sessions 2020 go online

Islay Music

Same as so many other events this year the Islay Sessions 2020 will take place online. They will also be a bit shorter this year, taking place on Saturday 21/Nov/2020 in the evening. However, the line-up is as good as ever with some familiar faces (as in, they have performed at previous sessions) and some new artists. Today the organisers uploaded a short teaser:

Fraser Shaw Trust – Sessions 2020

This years sessions will be broadcasted live on the Fraser Shaw Trust YouTube channel, starting at 19:30 on Saturday 21/Nov/2020. The musicians performing this year will be Daimh, Maeve MacKinnon, LB Salter & Jenn Butterworth and David Foley & Jack Smedley. I hope we will be able to use the live chat function, while not the same it would allow us to chat with the musicians and listeners, something I’ve always really enjoyed at the real live sessions.

Get your tickets and with it entries to the prize draw (including for a rare Bruichladdich valinch) online, I understand you can get as many as you want. For more information follow @TrustFraser and @IslaySessions on Twitter, if you’re on Facebook you can like TrustFraser on FB and Islay Sessions on FB.

Hope to “see” you there!

Listen to the This Is Islay podcast

Islay News

Some new media from Islay to write about. Back in August the This is Islay podcast was launched. Its goal is to bring you voices from Islay, news and events with interviews from the community. It is intended for both locals and listeners further afield to give an insight into what is happening on Islay and how the community experienced events. The intention is to complement other news sources (e.g. The Ileach), not to compete with them.

As of writing this two episodes have been published, Welcome to This Is Islay Fàilte a chàirdean and Islay Resilience and A Trip To India. The below embedded player should list and allow you to play the most recent episodes (as of writing this the two mentioned ones):

Christmas 2020 on Islay This Is Islay

This episode features Jolyon Thurgood and guest host Frazer Campbell, from Campbell's of Islay, and a High Street Hero nominated as part of the Scotland Loves Local campaign for their support of the community during challenging times of 2020. This episode also features Glen Roberts in conversation with Lynn and Louise of the Islay and Jura Virtual (Christmas) Market, Sophie and Davina organising Christmas Eve events in Bowmore.
  1. Christmas 2020 on Islay
  2. Islay Community Access Group and Music from the Fraser Shaw Trust / Islay Sessions
  3. Islay Resilience and A Trip To India
  4. Welcome to This Is Islay Fàilte a chàirdean

I hope you’ll enjoy the podcasts as much as I did and will subscribe to them (I’m using Google Podcasts, which works really well for me, but various other services including Spotify are available). With the latest developments around Covid-19 I found the information about the Islay Resilience Group very interesting and how it will help with possible future developments. But of course there are plenty of other interesting topics as well.

Support Gráinne Brady’s 2nd album Newcomer

Islay Music

Regular readers might remember me writing about Gráinne Brady’s debut album just over a year ago, launched at the Islay Sessions 2018. Hopefully there will be Islay Sessions 2020, be it live on Islay or virtual (Fèis Ìle 2020 is moving online), as I’m hoping we will get to hear more from her there. Why? Because Gráinne is currently finishing her second album. I should have posted it earlier as now there are only a few days left, but if you’re quick you can still support her in fundraising to finalise and launch the album:

If you’re interested in supporting her go to Gráinne’s Indiegogo campaign for Newcomer and make your choice which goodies to pick (depending on your contribution). They range from digital downloads over signed CDs and/or launch tickets to a house concert.

For more also visit Gráinne’s website, follow her on Twitter or Facebook. Also check out her Bandcamp page.

Islay Sessions 2019, a look back

Islay Music

Three weeks ago I listened to a lot of very nice music during the Islay Sessions 2019 at the Port Charlotte Hotel and Bruichladdich Hall. After that the day job and a few other things got in the way, so I only now get a chance to look back at it. Those who follow me on Twitter might have seen the clips already (individually), but here’s a video with a few impressions I’ve pulled together (all recorded on my phone, so it’s not studio quality. But I think it’s good enough to give you an idea):

The Sessions took place over three days from 22-24/Nov/2019. The Friday kicked off the event with a concert by newly formed VOX in the conservatory of the Port Charlotte Hotel. They played a variety of songs, with Laura-Beth and Kim (as well as on occasion the audience) providing the vocals. After the concert most went to the Port Charlotte Hotel bar for the informal part of the evening. Members of Eabhal and VOX joined forces and played a variety. Later during the evening Grahame Allison (owner of the Port Charlotte Hotel) sang a Gaelic song he performs regularly, what made it even better was Kaitlin Ross (of Eabhal) and Kim Carnie at times joining in.

Saturday saw the main concert at Bruichladdich Hall. After an introduction by Greig Shaw (brother of the late Fraser Shaw, who started the Islay Sessions) the Charlie Stewart Duo warmed up the audience with a variety of tunes on fiddle and guitar. Once they finished their set they stayed on stage to support Kim Carnie who sang some beautiful songs in Gaelic and English for us. Again there was some audience participation after a crash course in Gaelic for some. After the break and the Islay Sessions raffle of CDs and whisky Eabhal took the stage, mainly playing songs from their debut album This Is How The Ladies Dance. Again some beautiful tunes including some with rousing pipes. I headed back to the cottage after the concert as I was tired, but I hear their was more music in the Port Charlotte Hotel bar until early in the morning.

Sunday evening I finally got to see and hear the concert I had been waiting for for a year (she had to cancel the previous year as she had lost her voice, but this year all went to plan): Claire Hastings gave a wonderful solo performance with guitar and ukulele and of course her wonderful voice. Among other songs Fairweather Beggar and I Missed The Boat got an outing as well as a new song she wasn’t even sure it was finished just yet.

I had a great weekend and straight after their sets bought two albums online (Eabhal and Kim Carnie’s In Her Company). Angus was of the same opinion, as he writes in the Oban Times, Thrills and spills at Islay Sessions. If everything goes to plan I’ll be back for the 2020 Islay Sessions, scheduled for 20-22/Nov/2020. May be see you there?

Islay Sessions 2019 coming up

Islay Music

Just over a week to go until the Islay Sessions 2019, taking place 22-24/Nov/2019 (Fri-Sun). As of writing this I believe there are still some tickets available, but not for all events (I think the Friday is sold out). So who will be there this year?

The one I’m most looking forward to is Claire Hastings. Claire was scheduled to perform last year, but unfortunately had to cancel as she lost her voice, rather important for a singer. I’ve bought both of her albums and have listened to them many times. Here’s one of my favourites:

Fair Weather Beggar by Claire Hastings

Another one is this one, although I hope nobody will miss their boat on the way to Islay:

I Missed the Boat by Claire Hastings (here with Jenn Butterworth)

Next on my list are Eabhal, some of the members I know from previous Islay Sessions. Here’s a nice taster for their music:

Eabhal performing at Showcase Scotland 2019

The one I know least about is Kim Carnie. I will find out about her during the Saturday concert as well as on Friday where she will be performing with Laura-Beth Salter, Innes White (which I both know from previous sessions) and Calum MacCrimmon as VOX (no website I know of).

Very much looking forward to a great weekend with lots of great music, meeting old and new friends!

Islay Pipe Band performing in a rainy Buchanan Street, Glasgow

Islay Music

Obviously a bit of rain isn’t going to stop the Islay Pipe Band from performing, plenty enough rain on Islay to be used to it. Here they are playing for almost a quarter of an hour in a rainy Buchanan Street in Glasgow, recorded by Eric Traynor during Piping Live 2019:

KILCHOMAN DISTILLERY ISLE OF ISLAY PIPE BAND PERFORM AT PIPING LIVE 2019

PS: I noticed there’s a man (blue jacket, green backpack) going round doing something with some kind of instrument at the drones of the pipers while they are playing. What is he doing there? Is he helping them or distracting them?

Sailing the Scottish west coast (incl Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay)

Islay on Video

The Scottish west coast is probably one of the best places in the world for a sailing holiday. Stunning landscapes, beautiful bays and lochs to anchor, ever changing views (and weather), what more could you want? Charlie Hitchen did just that and recorded their adventures in a nice video. The first couple of minutes cover Islay, Jura, Oronsay and Colonsay:

Charlie Hitchen: Sailing to Skye and the Inner Sound

Lots of traditional music in the video, including some recorded during a session at the Islay Hotel in Port Ellen (with some of the usual suspects….).

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).