Universal Hall, Findhorn, 6 February 2013
IT’S rare in a gig that the banter from the band can cover topics as diverse as Edwardian facial hair, the tagging of Shetland Islanders, kennels for men and political uncertainty as symbolised by a poorly organised Burns supper, but then Session A9 are no ordinary band.
THE boys (Marc Clement on guitar and vocals, Gordon Gunn on fiddle and mandolin, Brian MacAlpine on piano, David Robertson on percussion with Kevin Henderson, Charlie McKerron and Adam Sutherland on fiddle) are frequently regarded as one of Scotland’s ‘super groups’ of fiddlers and, hard as it may seem to believe, have been casting their infectious brand of hearty Scots tunes and superbly tight musicianship over the Scottish music scene for over 10 years now.
Much of the material for their gig at Findhorn’s Universal Hall came from their new and exciting self-titled album, but old favourites from What Road?, Bottlenecks and Armbreakers and One for the Road (delivered with some fresh twists) were warmly welcomed.
The boys kicked the night off with a rousing series of ‘Wedding Polkas’ with the gentle ‘The Surfing Bride’ before climaxing with ‘One for Oliver’. A taut set of strathspeys – ‘The Real Mackay Wedding’, ‘Struy Lodge’, ‘Trip to the Market’ – followed before the boys settled into a series of tunes and reels including ‘Lady Montgomery’s Reel’, Jerry Holland’s ‘Mutt’s Favourite’ and Shetland’s very own ‘Up da Strouds the Sailor Goes’.
After ‘Paella Grande’ and new tune ‘Ridree’, the boys took a quick breather before returning with a set of tunes from their back catalogue including ‘Trip to Austin’, ‘The Arm Breaker’, ‘Duncan The Gauger’ and ‘Jig O’ Beer’ whilst the bluesy ‘Kirstie’s’ and ‘Garry Porch’ set the scene for new track, the racy ‘The Bellydancer’ (although Brian and Charlie’s promise to do their own belly dancing sadly failed to materialise), before calming things down with Gordon’s beautifully tender ‘The Birds Have Gone’ and a well pitched version of Karine Polwart’s ‘Dig a Little Well for Zoë’.
Old favourite Tim Edey’s ‘Celtic Thunder’ and ‘Pressed for Time’ saw Brian’s piano take a fair battering as the boys cranked up the pace and there was little respite before the speedy finale of fiddle tunes ‘Sporting Paddy/Hamish the Carpenter/Hull’s reel/Road to Errogie’ saw the Findorn audience on their feet for some last minute dancing. The boys returned for an encore with a raw and gutsy cover of the John Martyn track ‘One for the Road’ (so much better live) and a final set of jigs and reels.
Always best as a live band, their sheer enjoyment in playing together is hard to resist. If you want to see some of Scotland’s finest musicians at the top of their game then you’d be hard pressed to beat them. Their short tour has just finished but for more footage of the boys on their travels, and updates on future gigs, have a look at their page on “that facebook thingy”.
© Billy Rough, 2013