[Updated with Sample of Album below] In the summer of 2015, eight professional musician-composers from Argyll were brought together to record an album in a village hall on the banks of Loch Fyne with Scottish musician Joe McAlinden and Grammy award-winning sound engineer David Donaldson.
Conceived as a Talent Development project for musicians in Argyll by Creative Director of The Walking Theatre Co., Sadie Dixon-Spain, the result is a richly diverse and engaging set of songs released as the album ‘In The Wild Country’.
Of the two Gaelic tracks on the album, each sung by Joy Dunlop [Pan-Celtic Traditional Singer of the Year 2015], Is Duine Mi, exemplifies the project’s collaborative approach, with an arrangement developed by Joe, Joy and Nick Lewis from the Kyles of Bute [on slide guitar] from the clarsach prologue composed by Pippa Reid-Foster p2013 BBC Radio Scotland Young Trad. Musician semi-finalist].
If You Were A Bird was brought in by Eddi Price as a single couplet and melody accompanied by an evocative arpeggio. The producer’s approach provided Eddi with the structure and inspiration to write the lyrics overnight. As Joe said, ‘The result, when Eddi came back in the next morning, was unexpectedly haunting and lovely.’
A fragile soundscape recording by Clair Tierney on Islay during her honeymoon provided the initial rhythmic counterpoint to a riff David Fee had been playing about with for a while. With another layer added by Eddi Price on her guitar, David remembered a lyric he’d written a while back about the attractions of alcohol called Gravity Is Calling. This began a process in which the song metamorphosed into a weird but enchanting duet of love between himself and Clair.
With high levels of musicianship and wildly contrasting styles from hugely varying traditions, the sessions were an outstanding success, with Joe and David both declaring themselves delighted with the results which provide real insight into the vibrant and varied state of Argyll music.
Listening to the ten track CD, with all of he voices worth listening to, there is no doubt that one voice stands out in commanding absolute attention.
The fact that it is Joy Dunlop’s is not because she is the best known of the contributing musicians – but shows just why she is.
Her voice has depth, range and astonishing purity. Her diction – a too often neglected delight – is impeccable. But beyond that, she can motivate a lyric as few can do.
Her Is Duine Mi is the stop-and-repeat track on the album. Don’t ask me what it means – you do ‘know’. The liquid harp of Pippa Reid-Fraser tops and tails it with enchantment – and it is superbly produced, paying tribute to an unforgettable voice.
Sadie Dixon-Spain says: ‘Ours is an area of outstanding beauty, … yet immersion in this extraordinary setting also brings isolation, distance and disconnection. Many of us find it extremely hard to continue to develop our work and practice … which is why it was a huge privilege to bring this group together.’
The album will be available to purchase via the MusicMakesMe.scot website, downloadable via iTunes, and available on Spotify, from the 27th of May 2016.
Update: here’s a sample of the album: