Review: The Big Spree (Compass)
“The Big Spree” is a big darn deal from a hot little Scottish band.
I’ll admit to being hooked from the first track, featuring Breabach’s two pipers Donal Brown and Calum MacCrimmon on a perky little traditional tune, “John MacColl’s March to Kilbowie Cottage,” which gives way to a more contemporary piping number, “Davy Webster’s.” Accompanied by Patsy Reid on fiddle and Ewan Robertson on guitar, Brown and MacCrimmon set just the right tone for a CD that artfully blends the ancient traditions with a more updated approach to Celtic music.
Like most contemporary Irish and Scottish traditional bands, Breabach boasts an abundance of talent. Brown and MacCrimmon also play flutes and whistles; Reid plays cello and viola, and sings; and Robertson is also the band’s lead vocalist. The band invites comparisons to ensembles like Lunasa, Danú, Flook, Old Blind Dogs and Solas. “Super group” is an overused description. But don’t let that stop me. Breabach is super.
Breabach’s debut album features 11 tracks, all firmly grounded in the music of Scotland, whether it’s an up tempo version of a classic piping tune like “Merrily Danced the Quaker’s Wife,” or “Caber Feidh,” a lush version of “Hector the Hero” or Ewan Robertson’s spirited interpretation of Scottish folk singer Matt McGinn’s “Rolling Hills of the Borders.” (With tight, bluegrass-like harmonies from Reid and MacCrimmon on the last.)
I also fell in love with Reid’s sweet vocals on “Lochaber No More,” a classic farewell song with lyrics by the poet Allan Ramsay, written in 1724.
Hope for a tour. And while you’re waiting, “pick up The Big Spree.”