Alasdair Roberts is set to release a new album on Monday 26th March with Mairi Morrison who hails from the Isle of Lewis. Alasdair has more than a passing interest in the rich cultural heritage of Scottish Gaelic tradition whose diversity goes beyond what you’d expect from a small country. He recently curated and produced in collaboration with the Alan Lomax Archive’s Global Jukebox label the album ‘Whaur The Pig Gaed On The Spree’ which commemorates the 60th anniversary of Lomax’s first Scottish recordings and acknowledges their profound effect on the Scotland’s folk revival. Whilst the album offered a diverse portrait of lowland music this new venture takes him into new ground.
Urstan sees Alasdair Roberts, a non-Gaelic speaking Lowlander, stepping further into Gaelic culture. Mairi Morrison comes from Bragar on the Isle of Lewis, one of the furthermost parts of the Scottish Gàidhealtachd – indeed, almost as far west as one can go in Scotland before reaching North America. Of all the Gaelic-speaking parts of Scotland, Lewis is culturally one of the richest of all; Mairi now lives in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, but she carries the Lewis tradition in her heart and her voice.
Ceol ‘s Craic, a Glasgow-based club devoted to promoting Gaelic arts in the city, brought Mairi and Alasdair together to make Urstan, which takes its title from a Lewis-specific word for a celebration held at the birth of a new child. A dram of whisky, basically. Most of the tracks are traditional Gaelic songs, with a few Scots songs and self-written tracks too, all arranged in new ways by an ensemble including Stevie Jones (bass), Alastair Caplin (fiddle) and Alex Neilson (drums). Urstan features guest appearances from such Glasgow music scene luminaries as Michael John McCarthy (Zoey Van Goey),David McGuinness (Concerto Caledonia), Ross MacRae and Richard Merchant (Second Hand Marching Band), Peter Nicholson (The One Ensemble),Mike Hastings (Trembling Bells) and Gaelic song and piobiareachd authority Allan MacDonald.