Ru­ral roots in­spires singing shep­herd’s new al­bum

The Oban Times - - LEISURE - By Kathie Grif­fiths kgrif­fiths@oban­times.co.uk

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.

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