Tyree Records [Release date 11.07.20]
2020 should have been a huge year for Skerryvore. The band had big plans to celebrate their 15th anniversary culminating in one hell of a party with several thousand friends in the grounds of Inveraray Castle in Argyll. However, like so many things, COVID-19 arrived to put a stop to all that and all preparations ground to a halt along with the rest of the world.
One thing that had been planned though that still could go ahead was the release of this live album which catches the band doing what they do best, rocking halls across Scotland. The album was recorded on the band’s sold out Scottish tour in December 2019 and for many this may well have been the last gigs they attended prior to lockdown which is a sobering thought.
Cleverly the band have maximised the market spread by recording not just one show but the whole tour and including songs from each of the dates, if you were there then you are somewhere on the recording! It can also claim to be possibly the only live album to be recorded in Killin, Selkirk and Forfar!
The instrumental ‘Trip To Modera’ opens the album in Edinbugh and showcases exactly who Skerryvore are to the uninitiated. Led by the guitar of Alec Dalglish and the twin bagpipe attack of Scott Wood and Martin Gillespie this is the sound which has made Skerryvore so popular over the last 15 years. It is music to dance to and to bring a smile to your face with superb musicianship throughout.
The Isle Of Skye is the venue for the next track ‘Can You Hear Us’ which is a more straight forward melodic rocker with a soulful edge underpinned with a funk bassline provided by Jodie Bremaneson and the excellent fiddle playing of Craig Espie.
The next stop is in Killin, a lovely little village which contains the very picturesque Falls Of Dochart, well worth a visit. ‘Happy To Be Home’ could be an anthem for the lockdown months and the lyrics take on a whole new significance when put into the current context of seeing loved ones again who we have been missing for weeks and months.
The ‘Ginger Grouse Jigs’ then set feet stomping in Inverness before we are transported to Forfar, the home of the massive Forfar bridie, a meal in itself, for the reflective ‘At The End Of The Line’. Again this is another song with lyrics which have added weight at present.
The pace is picked up again in Darvel with another full on instrumental ‘The Showman’ complete with more skilful bagpipe playing from Wood and Gillespie and a great guitar solo from Dalglish.
From there it is a quick trip up the M77 to Celtic Connections in Glasgow, which was actually recorded in 2020, for ‘Hold On’, again a simple but very effective track with a great melody and chorus.
We head up the beautiful west coast next to Fort William for the very atmospheric ‘Soraidh Slan & The Rise’, you can almost see the mists rising in nearby Glencoe and the storm clouds gathering over Ben Nevis accompanied by the skirl of the pipes.
We then move on to the jewel in Scotland’s crown as we finally reach Stirling. The town contains the best castle in the land, was the scene of two historic Scottish victories over the English led by Bruce and Wallace, oh, and I was born there… If you listen hard enough you can just about hear me singing along to this one with the capacity crowd in the Albert Hall, a magical night!
We are then ‘Waiting For The Sun’ in Selkirk which is something you will spend a while doing if you happen to be in Selkirk! The weather didn’t stop the locals raising their voices though and singing along with the band with great gusto. We then head back to Inverness for a solo spot from Alec Dalglish who shows off his guitar skills in style, before being joined by Fraser West on the drums for a climactic ending which leads into ‘Live Forever’.
A trip in the ferry to Dunoon is next on our tour for the lilting strains of ‘Take My Hand’, an invitation to go dancing with the ones you love, again something we all hope to do very soon and a song of hope for the future. A final trip then to Inverness for ‘Put Your Hands Up’ and ‘The Rut’, the latter being a full-on jig fest that you can’t help but dance along to.
We then take the ‘Path To Home’ which in this instance is the granite city of Aberdeen. This is an all out rocker with great fiddle work from Elspie and yet more top bagpipe playing from the dynamic duo. The song also contains introductions to the band with a short showcase from all. The final words on the album from Alec Daglish are ‘have a great year’, hopefully at some point we all can…
This may not have been the year that Skerryvore, or anyone for that matter, had expected or hoped for, but with this release it gives a sense that some normality may return in the near future. It is a good reminder of what we have to look forward to when, finally, gigs can return and we can once again join with Skerryvore for those belated birthday celebrations. I for one cannot wait! ****
Review by Dave Wilson
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 26 July.. In the first hour David pays tribute to the blues/rock guitarist Peter Green.
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