Tannahill Weavers,
(Green Linnet, 2000)

The 2000 release by the Tannahill Weavers is nothing if not familiar. But oh, what a fine and glorious familiar it is.

The Tannahill Weavers bring to this recording the same balanced sound of pipes, fiddle, guitar, whistles, flutes, bouzouki and vocals, presented with energy and vigour. Their sound is a little more polished and refined than it was 30 years ago when they started. However, they are one of only a select few bands to last that long, with many line-up changes over the years, but still maintain the quintessential sound that makes them the Tannahill Weavers.

If you've missed out on that sound, Alchemy (their 13th recording) is an excellent one for getting acquainted. The driving reel and jig sets, with multi-instrumental melody and a strong rhythm guitar or bouzouki, are nicely contrasted by a variety of moods and tempos of ballads and other songs. The Tannahill Weavers also include several very familiar classics that they have avoided recording for the very reason of their familiarity, including "The Gallant Shearers" and "Over the Moor Amang the Heather."

Exactly as one would expect from a Tannahill Weavers recording, the music opens with a driving set of reels titled "The Fair Maid of Oban Set," which features several tunes from Ross's Collection of Pipe Music of 1886. Other outstanding instrumental sets include a funky and rhythmic pair of Breton tunes, "The Breton Connection," and a haunting and evocative pair of slow reels, "The Silver Whistle" and "Johnstown Reel," which makes use of an unusual and modern-sounding string harmony on the first tune. My favorite track is "The Wagtail Set," which closes the recording with a collection of tunes, including a couple by some of the finest pipe composers, John MacColl and George S. MacLennan. This march/strathspey/reel set features the tunes "Archibald Campbell of Kilberry," "The Strathspey King," "The Wagtail," "Old Willie Duncan" and "Cuir Sa' Chiste Mhor Me."

The songs include "It Was All For Our Rightful King," often attributed to Robert Burns. The Tannahill Weavers present this a cappella, with rich harmony and strong reverb, creating the image of old halls and spontaneous singing. There's a beautiful modern love song, "For Aye," the tune written by the band Balandran, with lyrics by Roy Gullane. This song is presented in one of the classic Tannahill Weavers treatments, with a running arpeggiated string line, and beautiful lilting fiddle and flute interwoven to create a rich texture of sound. "Molly Leigh" is presented with a rhythmic, upbeat flair, featuring pipes behind the vocals.

Pay particular attention to "Helen of Kirkconnell," a striking pairing of old ballad lyrics and a modern tune. The melody was written by Tannahill Weavers member Les Wilson and captures a whole new feel to the haunting song. I love the old melody, but find this one equally evocative.

This recording marks a record third with the same band members: Roy Gullane (vocals, guitar), John Martin (vocals, fiddle, viola, cello, cittern), Duncan J. Nicholson (Highland bagpipe, Scottish small pipes, uilleann pipes, whistles), Phil Smillie (vocals, flute, whistles, bodhran) and Les Wilson (vocals, bouzouki, guitar, keyboards). It may be this long-term recording history that gives this recording the highly polished sound, or it may just be that the choice of familiar material, but either way, this is an outstanding recording to add to any Scottish or folk music collection.

- Rambles
written by Jo Morrison
published 4 October 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.