Andy May Trio - Big Boots to Fill - A Tribute to the Shepherds

2020 studio album

Big Boots to Fill - A Tribute to the Shepherds - Andy May Trio

the bright young folk review

The Alnwick Pipers Society conceived the idea of a tribute to The Shepherds, one of the most legendary bands of the Northumbrian folk scene, active between the 80’s and the early 90’s; there’s no better option than the Andy May Trio to pay homage to this iconic group. Andy May (Northumbrian smallpipes, harmonium and piano), Sophie Ball (fiddle) and Ian Stephenson (guitar, double bass and melodeon) collected tunes and sets, digging through the archives, looking for the lesser-known material by The Shepherds.

The energy of the older trio passes unmodified to the younger one: vibrant and cheerful tracks follow each other since the opening Cold Nights of Winter, a set of a Northumbrian traditional tune, thought to have origins in the late 16th century, and a hornpipe from a 1838 collection, displays the potential of this album.

The Andy May Trio have gathered these tunes, sometimes from old home-made recordings and cassettes, as in the cases of Miss Mona Cameron, Jack’s Pocket Ashtray and Taylor’s jigs, the latter incredibly recorded on a Dictaphone about thirty years ago at a Willie Taylor gig. They execute them in their idiosyncratic style, allowing the listener who is into The Shepherds’ repertoire to trace their original source.

There are also a couple of reflective moments. These include Lady’s Well, a haunting slow air by Archie Dagg, named after the pool near Holystone, not very far from the studio where the album was recorded, and the evergreen Bonny Strathearn, both masterfully chosen meditative intervals in an album packed with vitality and vibrancy.

In the eternal relay of folk music, where the ancient constantly turns to new, the Andy May Trio have inherited the torch from The Shepherds. This album is further proof of their dexterity and their talent in arranging every kind of material.

Michele Mele

Released digitally on 9 October 2020, recorded, mixed and mastered by Ian Stephenson at Simpson Street Studios, Thropton.

1. Cold Nights of Winter
2. Washington Hornpipe
3. Maggie Watson’s
4. Miss Mona Cameron
5. Lady’s Well
6. Jack’s Pocket Ashtray
7. Kelso Accordion and Fiddle
8. Bonny Strathearn
9. Anniversary Jigs
10. Redford Cottage
11. Taylor’s Jigs

Andy May Trio discography