North Sea Gas,
Dark Island
(self-produced, 2002)

If you like Scottish folk music, then RUN, don't walk, to your nearest computer to purchase Dark Island by North Sea Gas. Actually, I guess if you are reading this, you are already at a computer. OK. Finish this review and then pop over to and get yourself a copy. You won't be sorry!

North Sea Gas, or NSG as they refer to themselves on their website, is a band from Edinburgh that has been performing for 23 years! Their 12th album, Dark Island, was released in October 2002. This CD contains 14 tracks, many of which are re-recorded from prior NSG albums. This isn't necessarily a "best of" CD, however, as many of the tracks are also new.

My favorite song by far is the title track, "Dark Island," which was also performed on NSG's album Schiehallion. This ballad starts off with a simple guitar melody and something very light in the background that I can barely hear. Fiddle, perhaps? Maybe it's just my imagination. Eventually, a flute or recorder joins in and somehow improves what is already an excellent track. The vocals are very touching due to dramatic pauses with the lyrics that almost make it sound as if the singer is too choked up to sing. The track has a very melancholy feel to it. The singer is obviously very homesick for his "Dark Island."

To lighten the mood after such a somber piece, NSG goes right in to "Kishorn Commandoes." This rousing song just screams for a pub and a pint of your favorite beverage. To quote the website, "It's a song the band has used regularly over the years. It tells of the construction workers who built the oilrigs in the North Sea. A bunch of hard working, hard drinking and by the sounds of it 'Big Blows.'"

The band performs a great rendition of "Loch Lomond." I have heard this Scottish staple performed by more bands than I can remember, and I don't think I've ever heard a version I didn't like. So, to be fair, NSG might be doing a fantastic job, but this is one of those songs that is just so good to begin with that pretty much anyone could tackle it and I would like it. (I could be wrong. I just had a sudden vision of Marilyn Manson "gothing" it up ... although that might be cool, too.)

North Sea Gas has three core members: founding member Dave Gilfillan (lead and harmony vocals, guitar, banjo, mandola and bodhran), Tim O'Leary (fiddle, whistles, harmonica and bouzouki) and Ronnie MacDonald, a NSG veteran who left for a 12-year stint in Australia with the Celtic City Sons (lead and harmony vocals, guitar and mandola).

I have really enjoyed listening to Dark Island. I am surprised that I had not heard of them previously as they have been around for a long while. I would think that most fans of Celtic music would like what this band has to offer.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 5 July 2003

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