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SKIPINNISH - Steer By The Stars 

SKIPINNISH - Steer By The Stars 
Private Label SKIPCD28 

Now in its 20th year, this is album number eight from Skipinnish, and as the years have progressed, so has the band, developing from a two-piece to an eight strong outfit with vocals in English and Gaelic, a strong front line of accordion, fiddle and pipes, and a solid back line of guitar, piano, bass and drums.

The band’s classic mix of big anthemic chorus songs about home, the islands, the sea and the like, alongside belting tune-sets and some more reflective moments, remains the same and the quality is undiminished. The balance is tipped in favour of songs (10-4), and in Norrie MacIver the band has a real asset. His effortless, honied voice can handle the rockier numbers, a traditional puirt a beul medley, and in the first, slowed down verse of Land Below The Waves, you can hear his beautiful ornamentation and phrasing to good effect. The tune sets are mostly traditional and high-octane, with the exception of Phil Cunningham’s The Youngest Ancient Mariner, which is suitably stirring (complete with the obligatory key change) and Archie McAllister’s fiddle really shines here. The sound is big and bold throughout (and so it should – in addition to the eight band members, there are twice as many guest musicians, and that is before adding a whole choir of school pupils, past and present, for one song).

Think Runrig; think Wolfstone; think Edinburgh Military Tattoo with the music pulling at your Scottish heartstrings. This is music to dance to and to party to, but it’s just as good for your ears as it is for your feet.

Fiona Heywood


This review appeared in Issue 130 of The Living Tradition magazine