LAST week, I was driving along Dumbarton Road and had to pull over to listen to a track that moved me significantly.
The track was Donald Black’s stunning arrangement of MacCrimmon’s Lament (featuring Donald’s own passionate harmonica playing alongside the unmistakable genius of Runrig’s Malcolm Jones on guitar) and is from Donald’s new album.
The tune has always been one of my favourites, and the sound of the track reminded me of Malcolm and Donald’s Close to Home album released in 2000.
It soon became clear that the whole album is better enjoyed away from the car stereo - at least the first time round. Such is the vast array of musicians involved that I find myself constantly referring to the booklet to identify the player responsible for a particular sound at a particular point - something that can become quite dangerous while driving.
The huge cast on the album makes for a rich and diverse musical timbre and also encapsulates lasting friendships made by Donald throughout the world. Donald told me himself that he is delighted to have included in the project dear friends and musicians for whom he has huge respect.
He has done this because his intention was for the album to be personal and heartfelt - hence the title Bho m’ Chridhe, meaning From My Heart.
Donald’s heart and mind are immersed in the musical traditions of his native Argyllshire and this is beautifully evident throughout the CD. He collaborates with multi-instrumentalist Màrtainn Skene from Lochaber for a number of sets (including a cracking set of 2/4s with only box and harmonica) and with the Ness Melodians for a fine set of Gaelic waltzes. Those arrangements, as Donald writes himself in the sleeve notes, are ‘deliberately in the old style’.
While such tracks are steadfastly traditional, others are quite the opposite - displaying Donald’s remarkable musical versatility. A real highlight of the album is Donald’s duet on Blair Douglas’s beautiful New Island Waltz with Nashville’s Charlie McCoy, the most recorded mouth- organ player in history.
The moothie duo are backed on this track by the superb coun- try western-style electric guitar playing of Skerryvore’s Alec Dalglish. There is also a Canadian influence on many of the tracks from the piano playing of Mario Collosimo from Cape Breton.
While Donald’s heart is undoubtedly filled with the traditional music of the Highlands, this album (which will be launched next month) is a reminder that he also holds a special place for international music and friendship. It is well worth getting a hold of.
Friday April 28: The Glasgow Uist and Barra Association ceilidh dance in the Crawford Hall, Beith Street. Friday April 28: An evening with Stirling Gaelic Choir in the Victoria Hall, Dunblane, 7.30pm-10pm. Saturday April 29: The Glasgow Skye Association annual spring concert ( Wee Skye), in the Crawford Hall, Beith Street. Thursday May 11: Comunn-anTaobh-an-Iar annual general meeting in the Ellangowan Social Club, Milngavie. Thursday May 18: Donald Black album launch in the College of Piping, Otago Street. Friday May 26: The Uist and Barra Association annual general meeting in Lourdes Secondary School. Wednesday June 7: The Glasgow Skye Association annual general meeting in Partick Burgh Hall. Friday June 9: The Glasgow Skye Association end of session social in the Redhurst Hotel, Giffnock.