Defin­ing gigs abroad keep Ele­phant Ses­sions ale and hearty

The Scotsman - - ARTS - Jimgilchri­st For full tour de­tails, see www. ele­phantses­sions. com

En­thu­si­as­tic re­cep­tions at fes­ti­vals in New South Wales and North Carolina, an epony­mous beer and a dauner doon Sixth Av­enue… the past year or so has been an event­ful one for High­land folk­fu­sioneers Ele­phant Ses­sions, not least the past few weeks.

The quin­tet re­lease their third al­bum, What Makes You, to­day with a con­cert tonight at Ed­in­burgh’s Liq­uid Room and a tour down south, re­turn­ing for more Scot­tish gigs later this month. When I spoke to their man­dolin­ist, Alasdair Tay­lor, he and his fel­low Ele­phant men were about to em­bark on the ferry for the Shet­land Folk Fes­ti­val.

They had orig­i­nally planned to head for Shet­land the day be­fore but post­poned it while they shook off jet lag from an April which started with them play­ing at the post­pa­rade party at Tar­tan Week, New York’s an­nual ef­fu­sion of tar­tana­lia, then ap­pear­ing at Blues­fest in New South Wales, to re­turn via Mer­lefest in North Carolina. It’s an in­di­ca­tion of Ele­phant Ses­sions’ in­creas­ingly broad fan base that both fes­ti­vals cater for gen­res way be­yond “Celtic” – Mer­lefest be­ing a cel­e­bra­tion of coun­try, blue­grass and other Amer­i­cana, while Blues­fest head­lin­ers ranged from Iggy Pop to No­rah Jones.

It’s a nat­u­ral, genre- trans­gress­ing pro­gres­sion for a band which brought its hy­per- charged folk- fu­sion to Glas­ton­bury a cou­ple of years back. “We went to Mer­lefest won­der­ing whether we’d fit in,” says Tay­lor, “but we did two gigs on the same day. One was all peo­ple sit­ting on camp chairs; we were a bit ner­vous about how we’d go down, but very quickly peo­ple were danc­ing and clap­ping. They were in­cred­i­bly ap­pre­cia­tive. The late- night gig ended up a very dancy, jump- around af­fair. We were re­ally chuffed, be­cause it could have gone ei­ther way.”

On the new al­bum, a track called Tya­garah is named af­ter the farm site of the Aus­tralian Blues­fest, which they’ve played twice. “Our first visit was a big turn­ing point for the band, trav­el­ling to just about as far away as we can get from where we’re from.”

The An­tipodean event, along with Glas­ton­bury and their first head­lin­ing gig at Celtic Con­nec­tions, when they sold out the Old Fruit­mar­ket, have been three ma­jor land­marks, al­though Tar­tan Week was also mem­o­rable – “Walk­ing down Sixth Av­enue with 30,000 peo­ple shout­ing and wav­ing flags. What an ex­pe­ri­ence!”

Fur­ther tri­umphs have in­cluded scoop­ing Al­bum of the Year at De­cem­ber 2017’ s Scots Trad Awards and Live Band of the Year in last De­cem­ber’s awards, while they also won the first Bel­haven Bur­sary, a £ 25,000 prize aimed at as­sist­ing up- and- com­ing artists. The

East Loth­ian brew­ers fur­ther hon­oured the band by pro­duc­ing an Ele­phant Ses­sion pale ale ( 4.2 per cent ABV), with an eye on the fes­ti­val mar­ket.

Ele­phant Ses­sions – the band, that is – emerged from a con­cate­na­tion of early Fèis Rois tuition, Univer­sity of the High­lands and Is­lands cour­ses and New­cas­tle Univer­sity, where Tay­lor, now 26, met bassist Seth Tins­ley from Hex­ham and the emer­gent group en­listed High­landers fid­dler Euan Smil­lie, whom the man­dolin­ist had known from early mu­sic lessons, gui­tarist Mark Bruce and drum­mer Greg Barry.

The ti­tle of What Makes You is a nod to the band’s jour­ney over the past two years – “It’s the mu­sic that makes us,” says Tay­lor. Riff- driven and elec­tron­i­cally aug­mented, its bright fid­dle and man­dolin front line darts through shift­ing drone har­monies, marimba- like out­bursts and Barry’s propul­sive drum­ming, al­though there’s a con­trast in the beefy rasp of the Mat­fen Brass Sec­tion in the stately Riverview Pt. 1.

Tay­lor sees the al­bum as a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion from their first and sec­ond record­ings: “We’ve pushed the sound fur­ther in the way we wanted it to go, drop­ping in elec­tron­ics, more lay­er­ing.”

Hav­ing made their rep­u­ta­tion very much as a stage band, they’ve tried to repli­cate a “live” feel. As Tay­lor puts it: “You don’t want some­one to see you live then buy the al­bum and think, ‘ Oh, it’s not as good.’” n

“We’ve pushed the sound fur­ther... drop­ping in elec­tron­ics, more lay­er­ing”

Ele­phant Ses­sions re­lease their third al­bum, What Makes You, to­day

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.