The Right Path is the 16th annual release from Sgoil Chiùil na Gàidhealtachd, also known as the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music, a music school based in Plockton, Ross and Cromarty. The school records the musical contributions of its students throughout the year, and then releases them.
The players on The Right Path may be young, but they are the future leading lights of Scotland’s traditional music scene, and it most certainly shows. The quality of the performances from the ensemble cast of musicians (19 all told) is consistently impressive.
The release is a double album based around the concept of showing the progression of the players - the pre-Christmas disc consisting of their performances from earlier in the school year, and the post-Christmas disc exhibiting their more developed performances from later in the year.
As such, the pre-Christmas tracks tend to be more solidly rooted in traditional music, whereas the post-Christmas recordings are a bit bolder, and more willing to experiment with the form.
For example, Lily’s is a set of three tunes from pre-Christmas featuring Ruairidh Gollan and Cameron Nixon on fiddles, and Iain Bullivant on piano. It begins with the slow but sweet Lily’s March, speeding up as it progresses to the second tune, Colin Clachair, before topping it off with the gleeful reel The Cape Breton Fiddler’s Welcome to Shetland. They’re three great tunes, performed with a really deft touch by three fine players.
The set feels very much traditional, though none of the three tunes actually are. By contrast, The Echo Mocks the Corncrake from the post-Christmas side is a traditional tune, but it’s been arranged with an easy jazz swing. Nixon’s vocals are accompanied by a simple, chilled guitar rhythm from Cavan Rodgers, but then between the verses Cameron Sharp joins on the whistle, and then Nixon on fiddle joins as well. It brings what could have been just traditional lyrics to a jazz accompaniment a Scottish spin, and it pays off.
Other highlights are the appropriately named Box and Fiddle set, and Skylark, where the last of three tunes is leant a wonderful warmth and depth by the simple addition of a soft piano accompaniment.
All that said, whilst there’s more than an album’s worth of great music on The Right Path, there’s a few of the tracks where the arrangements don’t engage quite as well as the rest of the album, such as Cleane Pease Strae and Norwegian Moccha.
The Right Path is a combo of great musicians playing a wide variety of great trad music. In honesty though, the most exciting aspect is the roster of talented young musicians, and waiting to see what they’ll produce when they strike out on their own.James Motteram
Self-released on 10 December 2016
1. Lori’s Bridge
2. Brose and Butter
3. Waterman’s Inch
4. The Echo Mocks the Corncrake
5. The Elephant’s Nest
6. Fit Aboot
7. Box and Fiddle
8. Clean Pease Strae
9. Laoidh Fhraoich
10. White Nights
11. No Tie Upes
12. Club Slaraffen
13. Leaving Uist For Spain
14. Air Faillirinn Iù
15. Looking Through
1. Macreach An Each Dubh A Sasainn
2. The Right Path
3. Where Are You (Tonight I Wonder)
4. Norwegian Moccha
5. The Term Time
7. Frog’s End
8. Miss Proud
9. Clachan Ghlinn Da Ruaidhail
12. Màili Dhonn