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Private Label PDP001

Piano accordion and vocals, the kiss of death for some people, but Shouts is a bit different as you might guess from the title. Gary Innes is a young iconoclastic box-player - if you don't count Sandy Brechin as an icon - and most of the tunes here are Innes originals. Ewan won the BBC Young Scottish Traditional Musician award in 2008: he mostly provides accompaniment on this album, and sings four songs. In Gary's hands, the accordion is a musical chameleon. At times he wields it almost as a weapon of war, forcing percussive power from its pearloid frame. Rough as a Badger's is one such track, a swaggering hornpipe which suddenly becomes an armed assault. This frenzied attack is all the more effective as it follows the very poignant and gentle air Little Niamh MacDonald. Gary Innes is a master of both extremes, and of everything in between. Camanachd Cup is a lilting slow reel, Kilmonivaig reminds me of the last waltz at a West Coast ceilidh, and I Can't Sing Tonight is a medley of dramatic modern reels. The final Kazakh Ceilidh Commandos owes something to the Russian steppes, and possibly to Borat.

Ewan's delivery may have had some influence on the title. His first song, the well-pickled conker Beeswing, flattens out the familiar melody to create a more conversational version. The same straight-talking style applies to the traditional ballads Bonnie Bessie Logan and Magdalene Green. The surprising choice of Auld Lang Syne, a song which is conventionally shouted across crowded pubs everywhere, is treated with care and affection here: a sweeter melody, lyrical fiddle harmonies, and backing vocals from Emily Smith make this a song to listen to for a change. Combined with Ewan's versatile guitar, plangent and punchy by turns, and some supremely sensitive accordion from Gary, Shouts goes some way to restoring the reputation of Scotland's box-toting balladeers. Add the exceptional charm and vibrancy of Gary's instrumentals, and Shouts can hold its head up in any company. Google it, or try for more details.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 85 of The Living Tradition magazine.