December 2010…By this stage, I had hoped to be writing a blog entry in our new look website about our planned trip to East Lothian and the Edinburgh Christmas Markets. Frustratingly, neither of these events came to fruition. The new website looks like it won’t be live until January 2011, and the trip to East Lothian was stymied by snowfalls the like of which Scotland hasn’t seen for decades.
So I’ve decided to write on the subject of Scottish music. By Scottish music, I am not meaning the likes of Simple Minds, Wet Wet Wet (remember them?) or Susan Boyle. I’m talking about the stuff that is unmistakably of Scottish origin. The compulsive toe tapping, swing yer kilt stuff that induces sporadic cries of “Weeeeee-eeechht”.
Scotland, maybe more than most countries, has suffered from having its culture re-packaged in easily digestible “sound-bites” that bear little more than caricature resemblance to the original. Our music hasn’t escaped the “Brig a Doon” treatment and we’ve endured at least 4 generations of some terrible tartan wrapped tunes about bonnie lassies, handsome highland laddies and purple clad mountains. Fortunately, there is a new generation of musicians who are mixing traditional bagpipes and fiddles with contemporary sounds to make something vibrant, evolving and vital. These are just a few of the groups / artists that you should look out for…
Peatbog Faeries - the line up of this group from Skye is always quite fluid (in every sense of the word), but they are consistently able to deliver great gigs with lots of energy. They aren’t afraid to experiment and it might not initially be to your tastes if you are expecting something “traditional”. We first saw them live when they played at “Drams in the Field”, which is Glenelg’s answer to “T in the Park”. The premise of “Drams in the Field” is very similar to its bigger and better known cousin, i.e. lots of drink, loud music, late night partying and discomfort in tents. Click here for a music sample
Farquhar MacDonald - I met Farquhar in the summer of 2006 when he was serving me a pint in the Old Inn at Carbost. I commented about how much I liked the music the pub was playing on the PA system. Turns out it was his CD “Ghost Shirt” that was playing and before I knew it, Farquhar had a box of them on top of the bar and was asking if I wanted to buy one. I’ve been following his music since then, but I don’t think he’s released any more solo albums. Farquhar sometimes appears on the line up of the Peatbog Faeries, but he’s also a part of the wonderful Bramax.
Bramax – Once again, another band from Skye. The style leans more towards folk music, but it is delivered with a big dose of irreverence and the lyrics are usually a bit rude. You get a good sense of what to expect from their Myspace page. To quote from their Myspace Bio… “Bramax is an Englisized version of the gaelic noun meaning a quiet watery fart.” In summary, they are great fiddle musicians, highly entertaining and not to be missed if you ever get the chance. Click here for a sample of a great Bramax song.
Martyn Bennett – Arguably one of the most important and influential of modern Scottish musicians. Martyn tragically died of cancer in 2005 at just 34 years old. Martyn’s family has always been very musical and some of his songs sampled recordings of his great-great-grandfather singing in 1910. Martyn’s music is always experimental, but retains a strong Scottish identity even when there aren’t any obviously Scottish instruments involved. We’re great fans of his music as much of it has a story to tell. However, it is something that you might find to be an acquired taste.
These are just a few of our favourites, but there is long list of other that I could mention… Paul Mounsey, Wolfstone, Croft No.5, Tartan Amoebas, Afro-Celt. Anyway, I hope this gives you a feel for the vibrancy and diversity of the modern Scottish – Celtic music scene. We give tips in our itineraries about which pubs you are likely to find live music in so hopefully you might get chance to hear some of our contemporary music live and at source.