"The Woods", a stunning concept album from Hamish Grant Napier has deservedly won this years "Album of the year award" at the 2020 Scots Trad Music Awards.
This is his third Album and with his previous 2 "The Railway" & "The River" Hamish Napier clearly likes to take on themes from the world around him(The Scottish Highlands) and build a sound story around the inspiration he takes from them. Coming from Grantown on Spey in the Cairngorms national park, he has access to one of the most dramatic and wildest landscapes in the Highlands and the album tracks celebrates the flora & fauna that make up the woodland on and around the slopes leading up to the Cairngorm plateau.
The album project was commissioned the Cairngorms Connect Trust and Napier explains how he constructed each track using each of the names of the trees and shrubs from the 18 letters of the Gaelic alphabet that were traditionally used to teach children. He continues: "For me this is an album of identity, exploring my native languages, music, folklore and natural environment."
Not just content with the music, the album is also accompanied by a 28-page, 6000-word booklet detailing native tree facts & insights into highland folklore with atmospheric landscape photography by David Russell. The Cover drawing of the Caledonian forest is by Somhairle MacDonald.
Drawing on a host of musicians: Steve Byrnes-guitars, drum kit & percussion, James Lindsay-double bass, Innes Watson-viola, fiddle & string arrangements, Jarlath Henderson-uilleann pipes Ross Ainslie-Scottish pipes & Su-a Lee-cello & musical Saw, the album uses a combination of traditional Scottish folk, jazz & rock tempos to capture the natural world. With 21 tracks, the album meanders just as you would were you wandering through the woodlands observing and listening to natures colours & sounds.
As would be expected each composition delivers a unique emotion with stand out tracks such as the opener "The Pionneer" and "The Highest Willows" with the Gaelic chanting vocals (Canntaireachd) of Calum MacCrimmon.
My favourite, however, is the haunting "The Tree of the Underworld" with Su-a Lee's mysterious musical saw.
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