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):
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!
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:
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.
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?
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:
Another one is this one, although I hope nobody will miss their boat on the way to Islay:
Next on my list are Eabhal, some of the members I know from previous Islay Sessions. Here’s a nice taster for their music:
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!
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:
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):
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
Living 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.
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.
Almost 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).