James Ross,
James Ross
(Greentrax, 2006)

James Ross is a pianist who displays a deep understanding of the material at his fingertips, and this album delights from start to finish. He offers the listener fresh, lively and expressive interpretations of traditional tunes from Scotland and Cape Breton, along with a couple of contemporary tunes and his own compositions. It's a lovely collection, played on Bosendorfer piano, and features very sensitive instrumental support. There's May Halyburton on double bass, James Mackintosh on percussion, Martin O'Neill on bodhran and Sue McKenzie on soprano saxophone. Brian McNeill's production is very understated, and the resulting album is one of many colours and moods -- it takes the listener through the thoughtful, jazz-inflected "The Gloom on My Soul" (featuring a superb soprano sax from Sue McKenzie), through a beautifully sparse interpretation of "O Mo Dhuthaich."

Ross currently teaches traditional piano at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama in Glasgow. He studied piano under the late Addie Harper, and his playing displays real feeling and emotion. He plays with the surest touch, and breathes life and emotion into all these tunes without exception. His playing constantly reveals the most stunning bass lines, and he challenges the listener to "spot the extra melody played under 'Iggie & Squiggie.'" Poignant tunes jostle for position with lively, vibrant tunes, and all emerge victorious, for this is a collection that seems to refresh the tradition.

Ross is a wonderfully lyrical pianist who chooses his material well and interprets it beautifully. Warmly recommended to those who appreciate melodic, expressive piano playing.

by Debbie Koritsas
15 April 2006

This album may not produce any Top 10 hits, but it is a CD that will grace the collection of anyone with a soul that cherishes music for the joy it brings rather than universal popularity.

The dozen tracks on offer are diverse. They merge the well known with the almost obscure and the new.

It only when we listen to this album we realise how seldom the piano is used as the primary instrument on traditional music in recordings today, and yet in the days of the "parlour songs" it would have been how most people experienced that traditional heritage.

James Ross has the talent and pedigree to have the courage to have a bit of fun with music. This is evident with some of the quirky track listings here such as "Spaghetti Panic Set" or "Deirdre's Computer Slip."

For evocative sounds give your attention to "Sitting in the Stern of a Boat." A clergyman leaving Skye to take up a new parish wrote it.

One of those tunes that is well known to the performer but is probably only known to listeners through reference in another song is "Flooers o' the Forest." It is a lament dating back almost half a millennium. Here you can hear the tune most of us wondered about on hearing Eric Bogle's "No Man's Land."

by Nicky Rossiter
15 April 2006