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Skerryvore - Skerryvore (Tyree)
The third album from one of Scotland's most exciting bands to emerge over the last decade. Formed in 2004, Skerryvore have shaped their unique sound, which fuses traditional dance tunes with a hard-edged rock base and a healthy leaning towards soulful country balladeering. Formed on the Isle of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides, Alec Dalglish (guitars, mandolin, vocals), Barry Caulfield (bass), Martin Gillespie (bagpipes, accordion), Daniel Gillespie (accordion), Craig Espie (fiddle) and Fraser West (drums) together with a couple of guest players Alan Scobie (keyboards) and Duncan J Nicholson (bagpipes) have captured some of the rawness of their live sound on this eponymously titled third release.
With the aesthetics of a regular boy band, the more sensitive ballads such as Smile in the Stars and Hold Me Tonight are almost in danger of rivaling those of Westlife, but are fortunately rescued by gorgeous instrumentation and in particular the sensible use of bagpipes and accordion respectively. The band's good sense to avoid cringe-worthy key changes mid-song is also a plus. It's with the uptempo songs that Skerryvore excel, all of which manage to create this unique blend of country-flavoured Celt-rock. Good to Go, Simple Life and the album's opener Path to Home incorporate driving rhythms worthy of any open-top car drive through the desert.
Then there's the instrumentals. There's almost an expectation that the instrumentals included on the album will constitute run of the mill jigs and reels exercises but in this case nothing could be further from the truth. Inventive, exciting and thoroughly engaging, the gutsy Wit's End with its rock-riff opening, the funky Angry Fiddler and the sublime Gairm A'Chuain (Call of the Sea), all demonstrate a band working together in complete unison.
Closing SKERRYVORE is a live recording of the Patsy Cavanagh anthem Home to Donegal, which captures that end of gig moment perfectly. Mac MacKinlay of the Shepley Spring Festival says he always likes to go out with bagpipes at his festival, therefore the services of a Scottish band is usually required. This year was no exception and Skerryvore's mixture of Celtic folk rock and stomp folk with a country flavour together with a healthy dose of bagpipes did the trick and I dare say it won't be for the last time.