As the reigning Scottish Trad Music Awards' Folk Band Of The Year, Breabach are sounding tighter than ever on latest album Urlar (Breabach Records).
With Lau's Kris Drever helping out on the production desk, the five-piece bind together perfectly as a unit, whether it is across the fast-flowing notes of Monday Night At Riccardo's or knowing when to lay back and when to let soloists fly on opening tune The Poetic Milkman (listen as flute offers lovely support to fiddle and pipe leads, and guitar and bass set the rhythm).
There is something intriguing and modern in their approach to the traditional piobaireachd I Am Proud To Play A Pipe, as there is when Ewan Robertson adds his melody to Hamish Henderson's lyrics on The Seven Men Of Knoydart. There is a personal context to the latter (grandfather of the band's Megan Henderson acted as secretary for the crofting rebels of the title) and behind all of the tune choices, which perhaps provides the extra factor that makes this Breabach's best album yet.
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It takes a rare writing talent for a busker to stop passers-by in the street with his own material rather than an overdone rendition of Wonderwall, but 22-year-old Alan Tennie has been doing that for some time now. This English Literature student from Glasgow's gig list has been growing of late (support dates for Roddy Woomble and Rab Noakes are on the 2013 calendar), and it is likely to grow some more following the arrival of his self-released Never Mind The Rain EP (www.facebook.com/tenniemusic).
Each of the four songs showcases Tennie's uncanny ear for a classic turn of musical phrase that would grace the songbook of almost any early 1970s singer-songwriter. There are some nice unforced arrangements here too, but what always matters, in true busker style, is the singer and the song. Expect others to be covering him on Sauchiehall Street in years to come.
It is melody that is lacking, however, on Under The Skin (Travelled Music), the second album by Borders electronic/ trip-hop project Roy's Iron DNA. At its best (Only You, Heaven Sent Insane), the music forms a hypnotic labyrinth of minor chords, bass rumbles and beats; but all too often the too-prominent drum programming sucks the life out of the music with machine-like rigidity while the flat vocal delivery offers nothing more than an afterthought to the instrumental elements.