Sabhal Mor Ostaig, Isle of Skye, 6 June 2009
THIS CONCERT took off at a pace that would get you arrested on the A9 – the Session were in good form and they had a full house for the fourth gig of their ambitious 16-date tour, Session A9 and Beyond. Funded by the SAC’s Tune-Up Scotland scheme, they will be performing in many of the country’s more remote corners, as well as at established venues.
This isn’t a big band but they certainly make a big sound. Four phenomenal fiddlers – Adam Sutherland, Charlie McKerron, Gordon Gunn and Kevin Henderson – guitarist and singer Marc Clement, Brian McAlpine on keyboards and Dave Robertson on percussion. Joining them on this tour is Daire Mulhern, a fantastic button box player from Ireland.
Their reputation as one of the best bands in Scotland is well deserved. Any of these musicians could have performed alone and stunned the audience. Together, they almost blew the roof off, with a torrent of jigs, reels and strathspeys.
The quality never faltered; the performance was tight as a drum; the rhythm was flawless, the timing immaculate. The mix of maturity (Gunn and McKerran) and youth (Sutherland and Henderson) in the fiddle section produced a wonderful combination of energy and depth, a rich and glittering polish.
But it wasn’t all high octane, traditional dance music. Marc Clement’s country-style vocals added another dimension to the programme – it was good to hear the late John Martin’s One for the Road again. And Charlie MacKerron’s slow air, What Road, was simply spellbinding.
Then there was something “a bit different”, including Cadhal’s Magic Fingers by Gordon Gunn, and several pieces by Adam Sutherland and Kevin Henderson. These are multi-talented, award-winning musicians, with some seriously good composers among them. Their two CDs, What Road (2003) and Bottlenecks and Armbreakers (2008) both earned top praise from reviewers.
There was banter, but no long swathes of craic. These guys had a lot of music they wanted us to hear. But no matter how much they packed in, their audience still wanted more. They’re that kind of band. Check out their itinerary, and catch up with them – you’ll be glad you did.
Sleat’s music season continues with a variation on the Feis an Eilein theme. There’s no full festival this year – the committee are having a rest – but they’re running a series of concerts, ceilidhs and films from the end of June right through to September. It kicks off with the Anna Massie Band on 29 June. If they keep up the pace set by Session A9, we’ll all be arrested before the autumn!
© Terry Williams, 2009