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ASSYNT - Road To The North  

ASSYNT - Road To The North  
Garthland Records GAR001CD  

Assynt is a new Scottish trio featuring fiddler Graham Mackenzie, piper David Shedden and guitarist Innes White. If you were expecting house music, think again! Almost all the material on this debut recording was written by the band members, although the entire CD is firmly in the highland pipe and fiddle tradition. Fiend And The Hound has those MacCrimmon modes so characteristic of old pipe tunes, and the title track features a reel which would be at home on either side of the North Channel. Reels, jigs, marches and strathspeys are expertly leavened by some gorgeous slow airs, particularly the sultry Forward Thinking and the graceful Ava May, both by Shedden, who takes the lion's share of the composing credits.

Garthland Drive introduces some twisting modern rhythms, and Conal McDonagh's is a totally contemporary pipe reel complete with syncopations and continuo birls, allowing Innes to get creative on guitar. Assynt round off an extremely impressive recording with a powerful set of strathspeys and reels, a track built around Mackenzie's elegant jig, The Central (perhaps dedicated to the much missed Edinburgh chippy), and a final reworking of the Alasdair Fraser classic, Harris Dance, together with a favourite of mine, Jenny Dang The Weaver. Everything about Road To The North is pleasing to the ear, which makes it a clear contender for my 2018 Top Ten list. I'm not sure how Assynt will improve on this for their next album, but I'm sure they'll find a way! 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 126 of The Living Tradition magazine.