Rural roots inspires singing shepherd’s new album
Mull fencing contractor and songwriter Iain Thomson has just released a new album inspired by his Argyll roots – and day job.
No Borders with 11 selfpenned songs, including one called Winter Wind Blows prompted by his main income as a fencer, is a collaboration with his long-time friend and multi-instrumentalist Marc Duff, co-founder of Celtic band Capercaillie.
The pair performed on tour at Benderloch Palladium – the Victory hall’s wee hall – last month giving a packed audience a sneak preview of the album featuring guest musicians Gordon Maclean and John Saiche on bass, accordionist John Somerville and backing vocalist Hannah Fisher, who also played fiddle.
Winter Winds Blow will strike a chord with anyone who has worked as a fencer, or knows someone who is.
The song captures the beauty of the land and wildlife that surrounds fencers and the thoughts that go through the head when working solo a lot, getting the job done in often challenging and harsh conditions.
Title track No Borders is about what drives folk from distant shores to jump on a boat, run by money-driven people with no regard for human life, to seek a better life, said Iain.
‘They have no idea what awaits them at the other side of the ocean but they feel it must be better and safer than what they are leaving behind,’ he added, comparing the dilemma that faces refugees today as being very similar to the plight of the people during the Highland clearances when they boarded the ships, with few possessions, to emigrate.
The Glendale Martyrs remembers the crofters in Skye who refused to pay rents, fighting on many occasions with sticks and stones when the factors tried to administer force and arrest.
The rebellious crofters’ main leader was John Macpherson of Glendale and publicity from their resistance led to much support for the crofters’ cause, eventually leading to the crofting act that gave crofters security of tenure.
Iain, whose acclaimed album Field of Dreams was released in 2010, is emigrating from Mull to Sweden to start a new life and a new language, which he is sure will inspire more new songs and perhaps another CD. He first moved to Mull in 1986 to run a large hill farm and became known as the Singing Shepherd after producing two successful tapes of his own songs.
In 1996 he left the island, spending seven restless years driving trucks and playing in bars, but found himself drawn back to Mull to start up a fencing and sheep shearing business.
His friend Marc Duff, who produced No Borders and is a master of the bodhran, bouzouki, wind synthesiser and now the uilleann pipes, has performed and recorded with an eclectic array of artists, including Billy Bragg, Def Shepherd, Fish, Iain Morrison, Dick Gaughan and Wolfstone. He has also played as a soloist with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra performing music for the BBC series A History of Scotland.
Iain Thomson has recorded his new album with friend Marc Duff, a co-founder of Celtic band Capercaillie.