Reviews

‘The Untied Knot’ from Shooglenifty - inventive spirit that resists restrictive classification

(May 22, 2015)

Traditionally pioneers are those that take the first steps, however in music as is often the way with geographic discovery, those that gain the media attention are sometimes followers rather than the true pioneers. These pioneering ‘breakers of ground’ often shun the hype preferring to quietly continue cutting their own paths without need for constantly broadcasting their achievements. Shooglenifty are definitely among those that set their footsteps on the the untied knot by shoogleniftyroads of true innovators. ‘The Untied Knot’, which celebrates their 25th anniversary, continues to portray that inventive spirit and continues to resist restrictive classification. 

Their iconic sound found its genesis in traditional Scottish dance music, taking its inherent energy the band strengthened it with the addition of driving bass lines, expansive arrangements and explorative programming techniques. They’ve gained epithets ranging from ‘Acid-Croft’ to ‘funkadelic’ in an attempt to categorise their sound, perhaps a more appropriate couplet being ‘traditional innovation’.

They begin in temperate frame of mind with a collection of  tunes and an excerpt of  haunting song ‘The Untied Knot/ The Fall/  Mile Marbhaisg Air a'Ghaol’, which leads to the involving mix of ‘The Scorpion/ The Devil’s Hornpipe’ and ‘Samhla Reel/ Scolpaig’. From there the engagement is continuous, from the markedly portentous ‘Somebody’s Welcome Somewhere’ through the multi-layered ‘The Highway Carpark’ and the cultural blend of ‘The High Road to Jodhpur’ to the psychedelia-tinged ‘The Arms of Sleep’. Top to bottom ‘The Untied Knot’ is a fine piece of work awash with spectacular displays of musicianship and bewildering levels of innovation.  

Shooglenifty are Angus R. Grant (fiddle) Ewan MacPherson (mandolin, tenor banjo, guitar, jaw harp, Zurna) Garry Finlayson (banjo, banjax, darabouka) Malcolm Crosbie (guitars) Quee Macarthur (bass) James Mackintosh (drums, percussion, programming, bass guitar) and Kaela Rowan (vocals) with help on selected tracks from Ross Ainslie (whistle, pipes) Conrad Ivitsky Molleson (bass) Luke Plumb (mandolin) and Dave Milligan (piano).

‘The Untied Knot’ releases on 6th July 2015, both album and band can be found here: www.shooglenifty.com

Review: Tim Carroll

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