Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Scotland's Music: Bruce MacGregor: The Road to Tyranny

Highland landscape, history, story, family, friendship -- those are things on which Bruce MacGregor draws for the tunes he has composed for his album The Road to Tyranny. A touch of politics, too, as the title would suggest.

You may know MacGregor as founder and driving force of the top band Blazin’ Fiddles, as presenter of BBC Scotland’s Travelling Folk, as book author, as partner in MacGregor’s Bar in Inverness, as co-host of the ongoing online sessions Live at Five, and from other projects.

All that goes to explain why it has taken a while for MacGregor to get around to making his second solo album. Twenty years, in fact.

That may also explain why the first track on The Road to Tyranny is anchored in family. The tunes are called Josh’s 2 Secs/ Jo De Sylva --a force of nature/ Short and Simple/Roddy MacGregor. It’s a lively set which references MacGregor’s son Josh, his wife Jo, a joking comment from a friend about the fiddler himself, and his son Roddy’s football career.

The lively tunes allow MacGregor to show off his skill and love for the fast paced aspects of fiddle music, and to bring in equally lively contributions from musical friends who will join in elsewhere on the album as well. Anna Massie and Angus Lyon, who are also part of Blazin’ Fiddles, bring in guitar and keyboards, respectively. Duncan Lyall and Ian Sandilands hold down the rhythm section with double bass and percussion, and Ali Levack adds his whistle to the mix.

As much as MacGregor can write blazing and engaging fast pieces, he well knows how to create moving airs and waltzes as well. One such piece of music is called Essich. It is inspired, MacGregor says, by the beauty fo the area in the Highlands near Inverness where he was brought up. Another Blazin’ Fiddler, Jenna Reid, wrote the string parts, which she performs along with renown cellist Su-a Lee, with Lyon, Sandilands, and Lyall returning for the piece as well.

There’s a fine variation between faster and slower pieces through the recording. Co-producers Massie and Lyon no doubt had a hand in that sequencing.

Annie’s Waltz, written to help a fan mark her 80th birthday, is also on the album. MacGregor along with Anna Massie and Jenna Reid, play the tune at Celtic Connections. On The Road to Tyranny, Tim Edy takes the guitar part.

“The tunes have been inspired by the people, the places, and the adventures I’ve been lucky enough to experience over the years,” MacGregor says. “There’s airs, jigs, strathspeys, reels, and marches as you’d expect, but then there’s other tunes...which don’t really fit into any of the usual categories -- they’re just catchy tunes.”

That ability to hear, understand, compose, and play catchy tunes of many sorts was honed as MacGregor was growing up by study with the late Highland fiddle master player and maker Donald Riddell. MacGrgegor’s time touring, travelling, and teaching across the world with Blazin’ Fiddles and researching the varied music he presents on radio have likely played a part in those abilities as well.

On the fourteen track album one of those catchy tunes is Doddie’s Dream. It is dedicated to former Scottish rugby champion Doddie Weir, who is living with motor neurone disease, for which there is as yet no cure. The tune was recorded by Blazin’ Fiddles along with Aly Bain, Nicola Benedetti, Phil Cunningham, Sharon Shannon, and Julie Fowlis joining in for a track that was released to raise money for MND research. It raised thousands of pounds while rising to number nine rank in the UK charts. On this recording, It appears as a paired back version with just fiddle and piano, a quiet piece that evokes the beauty of the Highlands.

There are other gems to enjoy on the fourteen track album. as MacGregor and his musical companions lead what one might think of as a journey through those Highlands, from fast paced ceilidh to quiet star filled night, from jig to strathspey to waltz to air. Tom Gibbs adds clarinet on two tracks. Tim Edey brings in both box and guitar in several places, and the players named above each return to add their gifts to more tunes along the way.

It is Bruce McGregor’s presence and creativity as composer and as player which anchor the recording. As both of those, and as collaborator with gifted musical friends , he has created a project to remember and to enjoy with repeated listenings.

Photograph of moor;and above Essich by Jennifer Jones; photography of Bruce MacGregor courtey of the artist; photograph of Blazin' Fiddles at Celtic Connections by Kerry Dexter, made with permission

You may also wish to see
Bruce MacGregor website
Blazin’ Fiddles website
Learn about an album from another Scottish fiddle player and composer who also studied with Donald Riddell Solo from Sarah-Jane Summers
More fiddle music to explore: Now More Than Ever from the Katie McNally Trio,

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Saturday, January 08, 2022

Music and Mystery: Jennifer Cutting's Ocean Orchestra and Salt House

At this writing it is the turning of the year. That is a good time to have a listen of recordings from Jennifer Cutting’s Ocean Orchestra and the trio Salt House. Different as they are from one another, they each offer ways to think about change, story, and hope. Those are good subjects for exploration and reflection, too, in whatever season you may be reading this.

Composer, keyboard and accordion player, researcher ethnomusicologist, and band leader Jennifer Cutting draws from Celtic strands as well as classical music and the varied folk musics of North America and at times other places in her work. For the project The Turning Year she calls on the talents of members of her Maryland based Ocean Orchestra along with occasional guests to create six tracks which weave together contemporary and traditional sources.

Stories told through voice, instrument, lyric, melody, and harmony invite listeners to consider the sort of thought often present at a year’s turning. Reckoning with pain and loss is present, as are ideas of renewal, resilience, and hope.

Those strands are especially well woven through the title track, The Turning Year: A New year’s Toast. It opens the recording, with Steve Winick, Lisa Moscatiello, and Jennifer Cutting of Ocean joined by New England based quartet Windborne who are Lynn Mahoney Rowan, Will Thomas Rowan, Lauren Breunig, and Jeremy Carter-Gordon. On this track, the strength, beauty, and nuance come from joining of voices, as they sing unaccompanied.

Steve Winick sings lead on an exploration of the story of Robin Hood, the first completed track of an album of Robin songs Winick has planned, and a nod to springtime, as Robin Hood was often associated with that time of year. The song, which is called The Birth of Robin Hood, is Winick’s version of a traditional piece, with Ocean members adding in their own touches to the arrangement.

Themes of adventure, springtime, and music drawing on traditional sources inform the next three tracks as well, albeit in very different ways.

Je Me Ferai Une Maîtresse [I Will Take Me A Mistress] has its origins in a Breton tune which Jennifer loved and for which she wanted to write lyrics. For that she chose to rework a tale of a sailor drawn by the wiles of a lover to a sunken city off the coast of Brittany. That is a place where, legend has it, on certain days you can still hear bells of churches rising from the waves.

For Springtime’s Message, Cutting thought of the tradition of May carols, of singing to celebrate springtime. She drew on ideas from medieval times for the composition, which is meant to mark and celebrate triumph of warmth over cold and light over darkness.

Celtic music is often a source for Jennifer Cutting’s work. Weaving together of music from seventeenth century Irish harp player Turlough O'Carolan along with music of her own composition and some further bits of O’ Carolan’s work she created a song with words from Irish poet Thomas Moore to make Planxty Drew/Planxty Wilkinson/Wreath the Bowl, for a piece which appears in Ocean’s Saint Patrick’s Day events.

The Turning Year from Ocean Orchestra and their selected guests makes for adventurous, thoughful, and detailed music. To bring the set to a close, Cutting chooses a simpler focus with an intimate take on the song which opened this project, the title track The Turning Year. For this take on a song which acknowledges loss and reminds of hope, it is Moscatiello on voice and Cutting on piano.

The trio of artists who make up Salt House are masters as creating music which both stands within tradition and moves it forward. Ewan MacPherson and Lauren MacColl are based in the north Highlands of Scotland. Jenny Sturgeon lives in Shetland. Usually they’d get together to write and record, but as circumstances have required, they have collaborated at distance, and indeed, made creative use of bringing in guest artists from distance.

The project they have created is called Working for Zeus.

Through the tracks, MacPherson and Sturgeon trade lead voices. MacPherson also plays acoustic and electric guitars and banjo. Surgeon plays guitar as well, along with harmonium. MacColl brings in fiddle, viola, and glockespiel and adds harmony vocals. Each brings a wealth of creativity and experience to their collaboration. MacPherson has been part of the top bands Fribo and Shooglenifty. Sturgeon has her own well received solo projects and collaborative work with Inge Thompson and others, always with a strong element of the natural world. MacColl draws on landscape and history of her native Highlands for her solo albums as well as for her work including the quartet RANT and the duo project Heal and Harrow.

All tracks are originals composed by the artists. If there’s one idea that pulls through it would be that of mystery heading over toward mystical.

In their lyrics Salt House create stories which are complete in themselves but just as likely could be parts of continuing conversations -- conversations in which each song stands on its own while encouraging wonderment about what came before and what comes after. The music carries that sort of conversational idea as well, from the opening title track Working for Zeus through to the concluding one, Sawdust.

Contemplative in general tone, the stories told through music and word are varied and engaging.

In the title track MacPherson sings of “There is a whisper in the wind there is a silence in the mist...” and a landscape of eagles soaring as the singer looks out over the landscape from his workshop, setting images which will last. The sound of kantele, a plucked string instrument from Finland played by Maija Kauhanen, adds to the sea mist and mystical atmosphere.

Ideas of distance are an elements of Under the Same Moon, for which Sturgeon takes lead vocal. MacPherson and guest Cahalen Morrison drive forward the enigmatic story told in The Day We Made a Wood with voice and banjo.

In Wood of Dreams Sturgeon’s lead is thoughtfully backed by MacColl’s’ harmony, and there is an especially powerful interchange between guest Peter Frost Fadnes’s bass clarinet and MacColl on fiddle.

The album comes to a close with Sturgeon singing “the sawdust falls like snowflakes...” with MacCool’s fiddle and Olav Luksengard Mjelva on hardanger fiddle adding to that image, on the song Sawdust.

The Turning Year from Jennifer Cutting’s Ocean Orchestra, at six tracks, and Working for Zeus from Salt House, with five, are shorter projects to be sure. Each project and each track on both, though, offer much to enjoy and much to explore in repeated listening.

You may also wish to see
A few thoughts on Silence and music
Ocean Orchestra’s album Song of Solstice
Jenny Sturgeon’s song Air & Light is part of this story about Music for Connection and Celebration at Wandering Educators
Lauren MacColl’s album Srewn with Ribbons is aprt of this story about Music for Saint Andrew’s Day

Photograph of Jennifer Cutting by Irene Young

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Friday, December 31, 2021

New Year's Eve

Wishing you a bright and happy new year filled with music.

To help you celebrate, here are

Carrie Newcomer with her song Lean In Toward the Light, which you will find on her album The Beautiful Not Yet

Cathie Ryan with Walk the Road, written by Kate Rusby. You will find it recorded on Cathie’s album Through Wind and Rain

Eddi Reader from her album Eddi Reader Sings the Songs of Robert Burns... with Auld Lang Syne

Thank you for your company here along the music road. I hope you will continue to join in the journey.

Image from the Pentland Hills in Scotland by Andrew Murray from Pixabay

You may also wish to see
The Lost Words: Spell Songs about the music and the book which inspired it
More about Cathie Ryan’s album Through Wind and Rain
At Wandering Educators, more music for winter reflection

-->Your support for Music Road is welcome and needed. If you are able to chip in, here is a way to do that, through PayPal. Note that you do not have to have a PayPal account to do this. Thank you.

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Friday, December 17, 2021

Gifts of Winter: 5 recordings to explore

Reflection and creativity are both part of winter, and of the Advent season.

With those two things in mind, here is a bit about several long time favorite recordings which go along with winter time.

Seasonal music not your thing? No worries, there will be more to come of non seasonal new releases and old favorites, good for holiday gift lists as well. Also check out the links toward the end of this piece...

The title track of Cara Dillon’s album Upon a Winter’s Night was written by Cara’s musical partner and husband, Sam Lakeman, and their son Noah. It’s a piece which evokes, among other things, the ideas of changes and celebration which go along with the Christmas story. It has a lively chorus to which you may find yourself singing along, as well. There is also outstanding uillean pipe contribution from Jarlath Henderson.

There are two more original tracks along with a selection of well known and perhaps lesser known songs on the recording. There is one piece in Irish, Rug Muire Mhac Do Dhia, and a fine take on O Holy Night for which Cara is joined by her sister Mary Dillon. Sam plays guitar or piano or bodhran on most tracks and several other musical friends sit in, including Niall Murphy on fiddle and James Fagan on bouzouki. Cara Dillon brings to this music a bit of the stillness and the joy of winter in her native Northern Ireland.

Matt and Shannon Heaton make their music at places where the music of Ireland and the folk traditions of North American music intersect.

On their album Fine Winter’s Night this is well in evidence with song and tune both reflective and upbeat. Both Heatons song and both write songs; hearing them trade lead and harmony on songs both traditional and original is one of the things to enjoy about this recording. Each is a fine player and a composer of tunes as well, which you will hear, for example, on Dust of Snow, and in their version of the Shetland tune Da Day Dawn. Shannon’s principal instrument is the flute, Matt’s are guitar and bouzouki.

You hear those on the tunes of course, and they well know how to weave their gifts on their instruments into songs as well. Shannon’s title track Fine Winter’s Night is a fine recognition of the brilliance of cold winter nights and the welcome of warmth within. In First Snowfall of December Matt draws listeners in to a tale of Victorian era New England Christmas time. The duo offer well known songs too. While keeping to the spirit of the season, they give carols including O Little Town of Bethlehem and It Came Upon the Midnight Clear a fresh dusting of creative ideas.

Kathy Mattea has two wintery albums out. Good News and Joy for Christmas Day.

On Good News, there are two songs form the tradition, Christ Child Lullabye from Scotland (with Scottish troubadour Dougie Maclean joining in) and and Brightest and Best. The eight contemporary cuts include Mattea’s own memorable Somebody Talkin’ About Jesus, along with the haunting title track written by Ron Mahes. and perhaps the best known songs from the album: Mary Did You Know? and New Kid in Town.

On Joy for Christmas Day, Mattea puts her own thoughtful stamp on O Come O Come Emmanuel, and offers a Christmas Collage of carols, featuring the guitar and arranging skill of her longtime guitarist, Bill Cooley. The eleven tracks are a mix of traditional and contemporary music for Advent and Christmas time. Among them are When the Baby Grew Up, O Come, All Ye Faithful, and the reflective Straw Against the Chill

Emily Smith chose a mix of traditional and contemporary music for her album Songs for Christmas, too. Smith comes from Scotland and is a fine songwriter as well as a singer and player of accordion, piano, and guitar. She’s joined by her musical partner and husband Jamie McClennan who plays guitar, fiddle, and is a singer and songwriter as well. Their musical journey winds from historic carols to contemporary Americana to Scotland based stories. All are well worth repeated listening. That said, listen out especially for Little Road to Bethlehem, Christ Has My Hairt, Ay, and Smith’s originals Find Hope and Winter Song.

Each of these albums is a winter season classic, well worth your listening for musicianship, creativity and, indeed, grace of the season.

Image by Jerzy Górecki from Pixabay

You may also enjoy
Three more albums of winter, from Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, Hanneke Cassel, and April Verch and Joe Newberry.
First story of this season’s holiday gift ideas: Albums from Sarah McQuaid, the Spell Songs Singers, and the band Staran
A story about A candle in the window, at Perceptive Travel
Music for Starry Winter Nights, at Wandering Educators
Second in this season’s holiday gift ideas: music from Graham Rorie, David Milligan, Karine Polwart
Advent: music, silence, and winter

In times when you are able to listen to much music at no cost, take this as a gentle reminder that if you enjoy this music, help support the work of these artists and the cause of good, thoughtful music everywhere by purchasing their music and merch. Direct purchase from an artist’s site is one way. Bandcamp is also a platform which supports artists’ work.

Speaking of support, if you’re in a position to do so this holiday season (and beyond), your support for Music Road is most welcome. Here’s one way:

-->Your support for Music Road is welcome and needed. If you are able to chip in, here is a way to do that, through PayPal. Note that you do not have to have a PayPal account to do this. Thank you.

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Saturday, December 04, 2021

Holiday gift ideas: 3 Albums for the Winter Season

Winter: it is a season of celebration and quiet, of gathering and solitude.

Music goes along with all of those things. One of the great things about music is that it may be enjoyed alone and in company.

With those thoughts in mind, here are further ideas of music for your holiday gft list, for yourself or others.

For the album A Fiddler’s Holiday, Jay Ungar, Molly Mason, Ruth Ungar, and Michael Merenda join up with the Orchestra of the University of Mary Washington in Virginia for a seasonal and holiday themed excursion.

There are songs quiet and fast paced, about a snowstorm, the harvest, a silent night in a famialr way snd as a two step, a Quebecois medley about children’s toys, Jay’s classic tune Ashokan Farewell, and more. If you or or someone you know is celebrating Chanukah, the song in this could be a great song for to share. If that holiday is not in your tradition or if the days of celebrating it are past when you read this, I think you will still enjoy this lively song.

The recording on which you will find it is called A Fiddler’s Holiday. There is a dvd available of the live concert, too.

Hanneke Cassel offers a reflective look at Advent and the winter season as she pairs O Come O Come Emmanuel with her original tune Star of Wonder.This is the title track from her new Christmas album O Come Emmanuel.

The music is a selection of original, traditional, and contemporary tunes and songs of faith and of the winter season, led by Hanneke’s fiddle, with contributions from musical friends including Christopher Lewis, Keith Murphy, Yann Falquet, Mike Block, Jeremy Kittel, Jenna Moynihan, Casey Driessen, and Tim Downing and selection of guest singers including Helene Blum, Luke Bulla, Jennifer KImball, and Aoife O’Donovan.

It is Cassel’s fiddle which illuminates each track, however whether leading tunes such as The Snow March or surrounding and supporting singers such as on a thoughtful and creative arrangement of Silent Night, with words sung in several languages.

Cassel is an award winning player, composer, and educator, a past US Scottish National Fiddle Champion who has taken her Celtic rooted music across the world. She is also a woman of strong faith. It’s been a longtime dream of hers to create a Christmas album. She felt this year was the right moment. Take a listen, takee several, in fact, to each of the ten tracks on O Come Emmanuel, to hear why she is right about that. Uplifting, reflective, creative, hopeful, O Come Emmanuel is a Christmas classic, and a fiddle classic, in the making.

April Verch and Joe Newberry decided this was the right year for a holiday album too, and they were alos right about that. Verch, who comes from the Ottawa Valley in the Canadian province of Ontario, and Newberry, who draws on Ozark and Appalachian roots, intertwine those musical sources to great effect on their album On This Christmas Day. Joe Newberry plays banjo, guitar, and fiddle; April Verch plays fiddle and stepdances. They both sing, and they both write songs. Most of the songs on this album are originals, in fact, joined by a few well chosen covers.

It might be a bit of a challenge to write a Christmas song, given all the seasonal music already in existence. It’s a challenge each artist meets well though, creating music that explores by turns the joy and mystery of the holiday season. Though they come from different geographic areas, both Joe and April grew up with Christmas traditions celebrating home and hearth, traditions they continue to celebrate and enjoy. For several years they’ve been doing holiday season tours together. On This Christmas Day is the first time they have put the seasonal music on record, though.

Warm and welcoming, with top class musicianship and songwriting, the album will make a great choice for your own music library and as a lasting gift for friends who enjoy bluegrass and old time music along with excellent singing and playing.

Here is the title track from On This Christmas Day. Joe wrote it after soundcheck in a restored church in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

There’s more to come here along the music road, both gift ideas and seasonal favorites old and new to enjoy. Stay with us as the season unfolds.

You may also enjoy
On this Christmas Day at April Verch’s web shop
First story of this season’s holiday gift ideas: Albums from Sarah McQuaid, the Spell Songs Singers, and the band Staran
Hanneke Cassel’s website
Music for Autumn’s Landscapes at Wandering Educators
Second in this season’s holiday gift ideas: music from Graham Rorie, David Milligan, Karine Polwart
Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s website

Photograph by Jill Wellington

In times when you are able to listen to much music at no cost, take this as a gentle reminder that if you enjoy this music, help support the work of these artists and the cause of good, thoughtful music everywhere by purchasing their music. Direct purchase from an artist’s site is one way. Bandcamp is also a platform which supports artists’ work.

Speaking of support, if you’re in a position to do so this holiday season, your support for Music Road is most welcome. Here’s one way:

-->Your support for Music Road is welcome and needed. If you are able to chip in, here is a way to do that, through PayPal. Note that you do not have to have a PayPal account to do this. Thank you.

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Friday, November 26, 2021

Holiday Gift Ideas: Stories Told in Music

Stories: they make a vital part of life. They are ways we share, how we learn, how we connect with each other.

As you prepare for and celebrate winter holidays, consider the work of these storytellers in music as gifts for those on your list. They make great gifts for yourself, too.

Did you know of the connections between the people of Orkney, in Scotland’s Northern Isles, and Hudson’s Bay in Canada? There’s a fair geographic distance between the places, to be sure.

There’s deep historic connection as well. It is a story which has fascinated Graham Rorie since his days as a young boy growing up in Orkney, where the port of Stromness was the last port of call before Orcadians went went off to work in far away Canada.

The Hudson’s Bay Company recruited Orcadians during the 18th and 19th centuries, thinking that the hardy folk of Scotland’s north would be well suited to the equally challenging conditions in Canadian wilderness.

Rorie, whose instruments are fiddle and guitar, composed a set of tunes that celebrate and investigate these stories and connections. They include the aspects of the life of explorer John Rae, who discovered the last navigable link in the Northwest Passage. There’s also the story of boats based on an Orcadian design and long used to work the waters in Canada, a tune dedicated to a town settled by folk for Scotland, and the tale of that last calling port, along with much more.

The Orcadians of Hudson’s Bay is engaging music, well played by Roriie along with James Lindsay, Kristan Harvey, Padruaig Morrison, Rory Matheson, and Signy Jakobsdottir. The tunes are well told stories; they are added to the booklet that goes along, both with words and with artwork from Jen Austin.

Karine Polwart and Dave Milligan join up to share ten stories, some from the tradition of Scotland, some form contemporary writers, and several which Karine wrote. Their collaboration is called Still As Your Sleeping, a phrase which draws from one of the songs Polwart wrote, a track called Travel These Ways.

Polwart is a singer and songwriter; Milligan is a piano player and composer. Though they are both well used to collaboration and have worked on other projects before, the spark for this oen came from two lockdown projects on which they were both involved. They found challenge in the spare sound of just voice and piano.

They meet that challenge well, too. Karine’s thoughtful takes on songs including Craigie Hill, Heaven’s Hound, The Old Man of the Shells, and The Path Winds Before Us are supported, though one could as well say intertwined, with Dave’s equally thoughtful piano lines.

Well chosen stories, and well told. Music you (and the lucky person on yout gift list who receives it) will want to hear many times.

Stay along the music road for more gift ideas to come as this winter holiday season unfolds.

You may also enjoy
Karine Polwart also works as part of Spell Songs
If you are considering late autumn, Thanksgiving in the US, Saint Andrew’s day in Scotland: Music for Autumn’s Landscapes at Wandering Educators offer good things to explore
Learn about Dave Milligan’s albumMomento
Learn more about The Orcadians of Hudson’s Bay
The first story in this season’s holiday gift ideas

In times when you are able to listen to much music at no cost, if you enjoy this music, I encourage you to help support the work of these artists and the cause of good, thoughtful music everywhere by purchasing their music. Direct purchase from an artist’s site is one way. Bandcamp is also a platform which supports artists’ work.

Speaking of support, if you’re in a position to do so this holiday season, your support for Music Road is most welcome. Here’s one way:

-->Your support for Music Road is welcome and needed. If you are able to chip in, here is a way to do that, through PayPal. Note that you do not have to have a PayPal account to do this. Thank you.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Holiday Gift Ideas: 3 New Recordings

Music: it is part of the holidays, and part of every day.

Music is also a great gift, one which may be enjoyed alone or in company.

Winter is often a time for gift giving. I’ve ideas to help with that, which will unfold over several pieces i the upcoming days.

Some will be from artists you have met here along the Music Road, while others will be projects you will learn more about in the coming months.

They are all well worth your time, and you may find something for yourself as well as those on your gift lists. There will be a bit of seasonal music upcoming, in another story too.

To begin, here are three newer albums to get you started on your holiday gift explorations

You’ve met the Spell Songs folk here before: inspired by art form Jackie Morris and words from Robert Macfarlane in the book The Lost Words, they created a mystical, magical collection of music celebrating nature -- calling parts of the natural world that were mean to to be forgotten back to life, as it were. The artists -- JIm Molyneux, Bath Porter, Julie Fowlis, Rachel Newton, Seckou Keita, Kris Drever, and Karine Polwart -- are back with a Spell Songs II: Let the Light In. The mystery, the magic, and the great music continue.

Speaking of magic: in times when touring has been restricted or non-existent. musicians faced all kinds of challenges in keeping their lives, their creativity, and their music going. One way Sarah McQuaid decided to do this was to record live (although without an audience other than those making the recording) in a place she knows well, a historic church not far from where McQuaid lives in Cornwall. “We set her up as if it were a regular gig,” Sarah’s manager and sound engineer, Martin Stansbury told Hot Press. He and Sarah knew it would make a fine setting for a live recording, while engaging their creativity in ways both new and familiar. Indeed it does, and the result is well worth repeated listening. The album is called The Saint Buryan Sessions.

The musicians who make up the band Staran had their own recording challenges, too. They are a recently formed group, brought together by keyboard player John Lowrie. He had worked with fiddler Jack Smedley, guitarist Innes White, bass player James Lindsay, and singer Kim Carnie on other projects but the five had not played together as a five piece. With limited opportunities to gather in person, they nevertheless came up with an excellent debut album. It includes original tunes as well as song in both English and Gaelic. They decided to call it Staran after the band, whose name means path or stepping stone in Scottish Gaelic.

Stay along the music road for more gift ideas to come as this winter holiday season unfolds.

You may also enjoy
About the first Spell Songs recording
If you are considering late autumn, Thanksgiving in the US, Saint Andrew’s day in Scotland: Music for Autumn’s Landscapes at Wandering Educators offer good things to explore
Another holiday gift list from a few years back at Perceptive Travel. Music for many interests...
About the book The Lost Spells

In times when you are able to listen to much music at no cost, if you enjoy this music, I encourage you to help support the work of these artists and the cause of good, thoughtful music everywhere by purchasing their music. Direct purchase from an artist’s site is one way. Bandcamp is also a platform which supports artists’ work.

Speaking of support, if you’re in a position to do so this holiday season, your support for Music Road is most welcome. Here’s one way:

-->Your support for Music Road is welcome and needed. If you are able to chip in, here is a way to do that, through PayPal. Note that you do not have to have a PayPal account to do this. Thank you.

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