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SKIPINNISH - Western Ocean

SKIPINNISH - Western Ocean
Skipinnish Records SKIPCD24

There must be half a dozen Skipinnish albums in the back catalogue. Famous for their ceilidhs and concerts, with their own record label which also embraces other musicians and singers, this band has become almost a force of nature in its Fort William home and gained a worldwide reputation. Pipes, box and fiddle pump out great tunes by mainly Scottish composers old and new, from Bobby MacLeod to Bela Fleck, Donald MacLeod to Blair Douglas. No need for own compositions when the tradition is so rich.

The vocals are a slightly different story. There are rather more of them than I would like, but somehow this works despite my prejudices. In a good mix of Gaelic and English, there is only one traditional song Máili Dhonn: the rest are mainly penned by the band and range from the quite traditional Aisling Cuimhn' through the Runrig-style ballad Walking On The Waves to the contemporary bleakness of About You Now. Most of the lead vocals fall to Robert Robertson, a strong singer with a rough and ready delivery. The occasional guest appearance from Rachel Walker is the icing on the bun, her pure, sweet voice a delight in a lead or backing role.

Skippinish are also joined by friends on extra pipes, guitars and percussion to give a big band feel to a few tracks. The opening Nelson Mandela medley is a real crowd-pleaser, as is the Big Cailleach set. The final Nuair Bha Mi Og is played both as a beautiful slow air and as a rousing anthem. With six songs and six instrumentals, a wide range of styles and stunning musicality throughout, Western Ocean is a great example of what's happening in the Scottish folk and ceilidh scenes. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 104 of The Living Tradition magazine.