Happy 50th birthday to the Tannahill Weavers

Taking the name from the Gaelic for golden, Òrach is a particularly apt title for the Tannahill Weavers’ 50th recording as it marks the 50th anniversary of the band. Yes, I had to check that as well – the Tannies are 50 years old!

So how does one go about reviewing an album like this? These guys are The Rolling Stones of the Trad world. They’ve seen and done it all yet still delight audiences far and wide.

I could wax lyrical over Roy Gullane’s driving guitar and meaty vocals, Phil Smillie’s delightful flute and whistle skills, the silky fiddle of John Martin and Lorne MacDougall’s piping wizardry.

I could talk about the vocal harmonies that are at times quite exquisite or the subtle arrangements of traditional and contemporary tunes that play to the individual strengths of the band.

I could, but this album has made it all the more tricky as the lads have brought in many past members and friends from over the years to contribute to this special album. The rich cornucopia of musicality takes this recording away from the current four and creates an entity of its own but always retaining that clear Tannahill Weaver identity. Not an easy thing to do with so many individual talents on show.

So again, how does one review such an album, a coruscating kaleidoscope of colour and texture? At times the blood pumps hard from dancing tracks such as the toe-tapping Asturian Sessions or the snappy strathspeys in the opening Òrach that changes midway into a full on reel, finishing with a lovely rendition of Adam Sutherland’s cheeky Trip to the Market.

Then delightful renditions of songs like Matt McGinn’s Jenny A’ Things and Jessie the Floo’er o’ Dunblane soften the mood and serve to remind us of the vocal skills of the band. By the time we get to the humour of Oh No, a great wee ditty written by Billy Connolly no less, we’ve nearly covered the full gamut of emotions.

Less than half way through the band drop a melancholic Sunset Over the Somme on to our laps with Phil’s ethereal whistle tailing off as darkness shrouds that most bloody of arenas. Throw in a good haunting with The Ghost of Mick McDonnell and finish with a history lesson about the inconclusive Battle of Sheriffmuir and the fifty years of The Tannahill Weavers is summed up in one glorious album. As an encore the band pay a poignant tribute to one of their former members, the late Gordon Duncan, playing their version of a track taken from his debut album. The great man wouldn’t be disappointed.

Pablo Picasso is reputed to have said that the purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls and in this celebratory recording the Tannies have done just that with tales of yore and vibrant tunes. Just sit back and let them do their thing.

The Tannahill Weavers are currently on tour, home and abroad, details of which can be found HERE.