CD Reviews

In this section you will find reviews of the most recent albums by a number of the artists who are playing at this years music on the marr.

The reviews will be by our lovely MOM supporters. Stewards, Web Geeks, MC’s ETC

The views stated in these reviews do not necessarily reflect the views of the MOM organisers; we think that everybody who plays at MOM is MARRVELOUS.


The Elusive Highland Beauty by The Elephant Sessions
A Review by Neil Widdowson

Close your eyes; open your senses and prepare to be taken on a journey through the highlands.

The Elephant Sessions perform a selection of delightful songs for their album: The Elusive Highland Beauty. They base their style on the classic highland country music we all know and love, but take it to a new level with an incredible modern twist. With a selection of both classical and more modern instruments, The Elephant Sessions create musical masterpieces all filled into one great album.

Having heard Skipinnish two years ago at Music on the Marr, I doubted I would ever find a contender to come close to beating them in highland music. I think I have just found a contender. The Elephant Sessions: The Elusive Highland Beauty blew me away so much that listened to their other album as well: All We Have Is Now – which is just as good.

I would recommend this music to any one of my friends or acquaintances. Even if they are not fond of country, highland or folk music; this is something different and it is not to be missed. A day ago, I knew nothing of who these people were, only a few songs into the album I felt the ‘MoM feeling’ creep up on me – I can’t wait to see this band live!

I could not recommend one song simply because they are all great – I recommend taking an hour out of your day to sit down with a good HiFi or headphones, close your eyes and just listen to the beauty that it is. I fully intend to buy their new album when they come here in July, signed if possible.

You can listen to their albums on their website:

Nae Plans Vol 1 Grantown on Spey:

Nae Plans comprise Hamish Napier on piano and vocals and Adam Sutherland on fiddle.  They are both obviously steeped in the Scottish Folk tradition but are clearly prepared to experiment with Jazz, Gospel and Classical influences, introduced by Hamish’s varied piano accompaniments, to bring a new dimension to essentially standard Scottish tunes and song. The effect is to open the listener’s mind to a broad spectrum of musical possibilities ranging from the Gospel opening to Take Your Partners (track 2) and the deeply sensitive Rabbie Luvs Jean 4eva (track 3), to the quirky Offensive Doctor Flute Pervert (track 12) which sounds like a blend of Stockhausen and Ali Bain after a good night out.  Other idiosyncratic moments include one or two false starts that result in the guys collapsing in fits of laughter, which illustrates their sense of fun and gives the album the feel of a live session.  Overall the cd is a pleasing attempt at pushing the boundaries of musical fusion.

Nae Plans Vol 2 The First Scottish Tour:   

As the title states, Vol 2 really is a collection of live recordings from their First Scottish Tour. The album displays the same quirky sense of fun as in Vol 1, but with a different set of tunes and songs interspersed with banter with the audience. The quality of recording is extremely good and so too is the musicianship. Hamish’s piano and singing and Adam’s excellent fiddle playing create a wonderful blend suggesting that the two guys are definitely more settled in their collaboration.

They may be called Nae Plans but I think these two guys know exactly what they are doing and what direction they want to go. 

Mike France

Review of The Urban Folk Quartet Live III by David Rawsthorn

UFQ are a four piece contemporary folk band. As the name suggests the CD comprises tracks recorded at a series of live performances. Released in October 2016 this is the UFQ’s sixth CD: they alternate studio recorded albums with live compilations.

The CD cover gave me a clue to the mostly high energy music on the album- all four band members were pictured somewhere mid-air !

I enjoyed the album, which was probably a perfect one for someone who isn’t a folk anorak (apologies to any anoraks reading this). The music is certainly eclectic. On the one hand this is fiddle-led music that draws heavily from Celtic dance and traditional song. On the other hand even someone as musically illiterate as I can discern a number of other strands- Balkan, Middle Eastern, Latin,  to name but a few.

The music is instrumentally virtuosic, upbeat and incredibly varied- happy music: the sort of thing to listen to as a ‘pick me up’.

Most of the tracks are written by the band members with a few ‘Trads’ thrown in. A couple of the nine tracks slow things down a bit to give the listener a bit of a breather.

My favourite track was the fourth, ‘Before Your Eyes/The Whiplash Reel’. Part of this seems to feature a Middle Eastern banjo- does such a thing exist ?

So get your pint and head for the main marquee and don’t miss UFQ.

The Liberty to Choose – A selection of Songs from The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs: A Review by Stuart Glencross

This is a great CD consisting of songs both traditional messages such as the molecatcher, and topics which are just as relevant today as when they were written with songs on the seeds of love and troops going off to war (Bonny Light Horseman).

My favourite song on the album is Captain Ward and The Rainbow as I enjoyed Brian Peters and the story behind the song in which the changing monarchy meant a change from legal privateer to an outlaw with an entire fleet of ships. The songs picked from the New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs I feel have also been carefully chosen to have a combination of serious songs such as The Cruel Mother and Van Dieman’s Land and playful songs such as The Hungry Fox. The combination of serious and playful songs makes this a joy to listen to as you don’t get the sense of repetition sometimes found. I also enjoyed the various arrangements between the four artists from solo performances to all four artists playing together, which I feel makes the CD sound like a live concert instead of a studio performance and you can feel the enjoyment of the artists when they play the songs.

The energy within the violin and vocals within the songs really bring out the lively nature of the songs. It was also interesting the contrasting nature of the songs in that some songs were very faithful to the originals while others you can tell the artist has made considerable effort to put their own stamp on the song. Overall this CD is a great album in which traditional folk songs are given a new life and makes you think although many things have changed through time many of the topics recreated in song are the same. Would I recommend this CD to a friend? Yes I would recommend that people should buy this CD for two reasons the first is that the artists who created the album have an obvious love if the songs they are singing. The second it is a well created album with a good combination of instruments and vocals which flow together well and can’t wait to see them live at Music on the Marr.


Songs From The Outlands

Private Label

James and Sam Gillespie live in the Northumbrian village of Wall, at what was the border of the Roman Empire. The music on their debut album honours the wildness that preceded and survived the colonists. The brothers sing in harmony. James plays fiddle, guitar and shruti box, and Sam plays mandolin, guitar and flute.

The spirit of place is most obvious in the Northumbrian songs. The Wild Hills of Wannie, with words by James Armstrong to an old piping tune; Devilswater, with James putting a tune to a supernatural poem by Wilfred Wilson Gibson (personal note – I was born thereabouts, in what was then a maternity hospital for Newcastle mums); and Bonny at Morn, an old song of a challenged family. From over the border comes My Son David; a version of Lord Randal learnt from an Alan Lomax field recording; the well-known Twa Corbies; and MacPherson’s Lament, with song and tune taken nice and slow (you’re going to be hung at the end, so why rush?)

Ireland, France and America are visited too. Spancil Hill is a strong opener. The Stolen Child

is an early poem by WB Yeats put to music by Emily Stewart. Faeries take the child from a world more full of weeping than you can understand. L’Aloutte, a French children’s song about plucking a lark, is followed by a Breton tune. Butcher Boy, an American relative of several Border ballads, comes with a tarantella.

The brothers’ New Age-ish voices blend well, as you would expect. Their musicianship is good, though not exceptional. The arrangements are leisurely, with each of the 10 tracks being given at least 5 minutes to breathe. Above all, this young duo’s music is from the heart.

They are going places, and I wish them well.

Tony Hendry