Musical Adventure Down the Spey

19 Oct 2012 in Highland, Moray, Music, Showcase

THE Whisky River Boat Band’s “canoe powered musical odyssey down the River Spey” will feature on BBC2’s Landward in the coming weeks.

LANDWARD, BBC2’s outdoor and countryside programme, will feature a unique and melodious voyage following self proclaimed “adventure folk band”, starting tonight (19 October) .

EARLIER this month I was lucky enough to catch the Whisky River Boat Band on the final gig of their Spey River adventure at the Tugnet Ice House, snugly seated beside the Scottish Dolphin Centre at Spey Bay. For any other band, it was, by all accounts, a pretty unique way to arrive at what was already an unusual location for a gig. Four guys and a girl, laden with guitars, fiddles, banjos and a double bass arriving damp but ecstatic just in time for an afternoon performance at the Ice House.

Whisky River Boat Band at Spey Bay (photo Rob Ward)

Whisky River Boat Band at Spey Bay (photo Rob Ward)

The band – Marty Camino on bass, Jo Jeffries on fiddle, Jed Milroy on guitar and banjo, Toby Shippey on guitar and Gavin Taylor on dobro – had already taken their whisky powered bluegrass and country across the Spey valley, and the Ice House was the last gig in a pretty hectic week.

After setting off from the Old Bridge Inn at Aviemore, and stopping off to play at Craggan Outdoors, Cragganmore Distillery and Craigellachie’s Whisky Bar, the band finally arrived on a cold but sunny afternoon at the Scottish Dolphin Centre at the mouth of Moray’s Spey Bay. The Ice House itself was a rare location for a gig. Built in the 1830s to store salmon and reputedly the largest in Scotland, its cavernous space meant it was remarkably well suited acoustically to an intimate gig.

John Hartford’s ‘Bring Your Clothes Back Home’ was a lively kick-start before the band launched into a number of their own compositions including the suitably titled ‘River Spey Song’, the feisty ‘Roughhead Mountain Song’ and the joyful ‘Old Black Crow’. There were some tasty covers too, including spirited versions of Loudon Wainwright III’s ‘Swimming Song’ and Lyle Lovett’s ‘If I Had A Boat’. Their last tune, the breezy ‘Going Down This River’, saw the band lead the audience out into the late afternoon sun for a gloriously cheery finale. It was a fitting end to an inimitable and thoroughly enjoyable gig.

Landward's Euan McIlwraith has a go with the band (photo Rob Ward)

Landward's Euan McIlwraith has a go with the band (photo Rob Ward)

Rumour has it that the band are already planning their next adventure. So if whilst sailing down the Tay or the Dee you hear the faint whisper of bluegrass and whisky fuelled harmonies then don’t be feart, it’ll only be the guys in the midst of another folk adventure and perhaps you should follow Marty’s advice; “paddle faster, I hear banjos”.

This article is adapted from a review originally posted on Folk Radio UK, and is used with kind permission. Thanks to Rob Ward of Scottish Dolphin Centre for the photographs.

© Billy Rough, 2012