Ridge Records [Release date 29.01.16]
The story of Runrig has been 43 years in the making which is an impressive career by any standard. The band have always had a strong and loyal following and whilst they have never had huge commercial success they have always had the ability to sell out venues around the UK, across Europe and Canada.
This album is the band’s 14th studio release and they have said that it will be their last so they have tried to write 11 tracks which encompass and reflect the history and legacy of Runrig. The album title track ‘The Story’ opens proceedings. It’s a slow building track with a pumping rhythm bubbling away underneath vocals from Rory MacDonald which explodes into a big chorus in classic Runrig style.
‘Onar’ follows and treads a similar upbeat path. This is a joyous song with a great dual vocal from Rory and Bruce Guthro, it also contains a saxophone solo which came as a bit of a surprise. The pace is then taken down a few notches with ‘Rise And Fall’, a lilting and atmospheric number which features excellent guitar work by Malcolm Jones.
The short instrumental passage ‘Elegy’ shows off the talents of Brian Hurren on keyboards. Hurren has also taken on the role as producer on ‘The Story’ and has done an excellent job of catching the spirit and magic of Runrig’s music.
This is ably demonstrated on ‘Every Beating Heart’, another uplifting track with the feelgood factor, again this is classic Runrig at its best. ‘The Years We Shared’ lifts the tempo once again, one of the stand out features of the album is how well paced it is with just the right blend of dance along songs mixed with slower, reflective tracks.
A couple of tracks on the album really reflect the history of Runrig for me, the first of these being ‘When The Beauty’. The band have always had an ethereal and spiritual side to their music which reflects their roots in the outer isles of Scotland and this is perfectly captured here. The perfect soundtrack to a journey through the Uists and Benbecula.
‘18TH July’ is another track which will have the toes tapping whilst ‘ An-Duigh Ghabh Mi Cuairt’ returns to the McDonald brothers’ Gaelic roots and harks back to the band’s first album release ‘Play Gaelic’.
This is then followed by the second track which for me reflects the Runrig heritage, ‘The Place Where The Rivers Run’. This is a celebratory song with a ceilidh theme which takes things right back to the band’s inception in the local dancehalls, accordion, acoustic guitar and snare drum are all in evidence and if you don’t feel the urge to dance along then you had better check for a pulse!
‘Somewhere’ rounds things off and again the spiritual side of the band comes to the fore which is enhanced with the inclusion of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. This is a perfect way to end the album and round off an amazing recording career.
‘The Story’ is a fitting way for Runrig to bring the curtain down on a musical journey which has seen them rise from the dance halls of Scotland’s west coast to sell out shows on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle and beyond. The band can be rightly proud of their musical legacy which has provided the soundtrack to a groundshift in the Scottish nation over the last 43 years and will no doubt continue to do so long after the band hang up their guitars. *****
Review by David Wilson
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