Link to Living Tradition Homepage






Great White Records GWR001CD

Ross is one of the most sought-after musicians on today’s Scottish music scene, singularly accomplished on two distinct fronts: firstly master piper and whistle player and secondly a virtuoso on cittern and mandolin. This unusual combination of talents was doubtless one factor in his being nominated for the Musician Of The Year title in 2013’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. And Ross’s CV is already stacked full of impressive collaborative achievements, including membership of Salsa Celtica and Treacherous Orchestra, accompanying Dougie MacLean and working with Capercaillie, Mike McGoldrick, Zakir Hussain and Flook, though it’s probably in his recent teaming with piper Jarlath Henderson (a “partnership in crime” which has just produced its second duo CD), that his profile is currently at its highest.

As it turns out, Ross’s new solo CD Wide Open is aptly titled, the phrase being a good description of the character of the music-making on this record – honest, relaxed, free and with everything on display. It presents a compelling and balanced snapshot of Ross’s influences and the musical styles that have inspired him over the years, sufficiently varied without being too overtly diverse (if you see what I mean). The bulk of the material originates from Ross’s prolific pen, topped up by two co-writes with his teacher and mentor, the late Gordon Duncan (to whom the CD is dedicated), a couple of Gordon’s own (Jug Of Beer, Tain In The Rain) and isolated items by Tommy O’Sullivan, Matheu Watson, John Bews and Ali Hutton – the latter also being responsible for the skilled and intensely musical guitar work that (in tandem with Duncan Lyall’s sterling double bass work) does much more than underpin the textures. These maintain interest throughout, with the key participants alongside Ross, Ali and Duncan comprising James Mackintosh (drums), Innes Watson (fiddle), with appearances from Angus Lyon (keyboard) and John Somerville (accordion); Gyan Singh brings the distinctive timbre of tabla to the mix for Otter’s Pocket and the especially satisfying To The Woods Suite which closes the disc.

The freewheeling driving energy that’s such a hallmark of Ross’s own playing is abundantly infectious, spreading its keen sense of rhythm to all of his musical companions, even at a more wandering, slower tempo (check out the tender first tune of the Wedding Waltzes set – which isn’t a waltz). What seems to set this record apart from other, similarly well-intentioned purely instrumental albums is the extra dimension of creativity present in the arrangements – this is by no means standard fusion-by-numbers and Ross doesn’t fall into the trap of overloading the soundstage (even when fully rocking out as on Problem). Rhythms build into each other and transitions are believable rather than forced. The contrasting Clans and Again sets are especially delightfully, deftly managed. A mighty fine instrumental album.

David Kidman

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 99 of The Living Tradition magazine.