It was, by all accounts, a pretty unique way to arrive at what was already an unusual location for a gig. The Whisky River Boat Band: Four guys and a girl, laden with guitars, fiddles, banjos and a double bass on “a canoe powered musical odyssey down the River Spey” arriving damp but ecstatic just in time for an afternoon performance at the Tugnet Ice House. It’s safe to say this self proclaimed “adventure folk band” certainly lived up to their title.
The band; Marty Camino on bass, Jo Jeffries on fiddle, Jed Milroy on guitar and banjo, Toby Shippey on guitar and Gavin Taylor on dobro, had already taken their whisky powered bluegrass and country across the Spey valley and the Ice House was the last gig in a pretty hectic week. After setting off from the Old Bridge Inn at Aviemore, and stopping off to play at Craggan Outdoors, Cragganmore Distillery and Craigellachie’s Whisky Bar the band finally arrived on a cold but sunny afternoon at the Scottish Dolphin Centre at the mouth of Moray’s Spey Bay. The Ice House itself was a rare location for a gig. Built in the 1830s to store salmon and reputedly the largest in Scotland its cavernous space meant it was remarkably well suited acoustically to an intimate gig.
John Hartford’s Bring your clothes back home was a lively kick-start before the band launched into a number of their own compositions including the suitably titled River Spey Song, the feisty Roughhead Mountain Song and the joyful Old Black Crow There were some tasty covers too, including spirited versions of Loudon Wainwright III’s Swimming Song and Lyle Lovett’s If I had a boat. Their last tune, the breezy Going down this River, saw the band lead the audience out into the late afternoon sun for a gloriously cheery finale. It was a fitting end to an inimitable and thoroughly enjoyable gig.
Rumour has it that the band are already planning their next adventure. So if whilst sailing down the Tay or the Dee you hear the faint whisper of bluegrass and whisky fuelled harmonies then don’t be feart, it’ll only be the guys in the midst of another folk adventure and perhaps you should follow Marty’s advice; “paddle faster, I hear banjos”.
For those unlucky enough to have missed the band’s adventure (and shame on those who did) good news comes in that it has been filmed for BBC Scotland’s ‘Landward’ television series (7pm Fridays, BBC2 Scotland) so strap on your stetson, pour yourself a large uisge beatha and settle down for a blast of good ol’ country and river based antics.
Thanks to Rob Ward (Volunteer Co-ordinator at the Spey Bay Scottish Dolphin Centre) for the photos!