Breabach’s second album builds on their live reputation as boisterous purveyors of superior Scottish folk. The double bagpipes they have become known for are in evidence, but so too is the quieter side of the band. This album also sees double bass added to the Breabach sound, creating further layering and balance around the central pipes.
There are a number of fantastic upbeat tune sets, mixing self-penned with modern and traditional pipe music. Father Michael’s, which opens the album, showcases three contemporary pipe tunes, whilst The Desperate Battle of the Birds is a pibroch, the oldest known piping music.
What makes the tune sets so exciting is that the different melodies, so diverse in time, fit together seamlessly. Also, nothing sounds like the bagpipe music that confronts you on the streets of Edinburgh. Breabach’s sound is fresh and sort of funky. Elements of the interplay between instruments create a dance-like feel (in the clubbing sense).
The tempo of the album is also well judged, with songs breaking up the music and creating natural places to pause and regather. Ewan and Patsy both take the lead on vocals, and deliver tales of life and love. I particularly enjoy Ewan singing Ewan MacColl’s Shoals of Herring, and I’m sure part of this is his wonderful Scottish burr at work.
The construction of some of the sets is reminiscent of Lau, but Breabach have their own distinctive sound. This is helped hugely by the production on this album, which finds an excellent balance between the instruments.
The track on repeat in my car has been Clueless, which builds from gentler beginnings into an absolute belter that feels short at six minutes!
With The Desperate Battle of the Birds Breabach confirm their place in the top echelons of Scottish folk, producing a classy, exciting and enjoyable album.Liz Osman
Released on 29 Mar 2010.
1. Father Michael’s
2. Baby Broon’s
4. The Desperate Battle
5. Rescue Me
7. Shoals Of Herring
8. Scott Drive
9. The Morning Lies Heavy
10. The Waterhorse’s Lament
11. Good Drying