With natural showmanship, raring tunes and an electrifying band behind him, it is unsurprising that Scottish piper Scott Wood is one of the hottest names in the folk scene. Since finding overnight success back in 2012 with the Scott Wood Trio, his career has taken an unwavering soar of success and he now stands at the front of a thrilling five-piece, the Scott Wood Band. Their highly anticipated debut album, Upsurge, co-produced by Wood and Breabach’s Calum MacCrimmon, is everything they are known and loved for: excitement, danger and a lot of noise.
The album launches into the explosive Spice of Life with Wood taking center stage from the offset as he blasts through tunes by renowned pipers Don Bradford and Gordon Duncan. Mhairi MacKinnon’s fiddle playing injects harmony into the track with her faultless grace notes glistening. The more sedate Park Ridge is a set of tunes composed by Wood himself, wonderfully uplifting and a welcome reminder of that summer festival atmosphere. The album favours the up-tempo, however, within these festival-ready numbers, the beauty and elegance held by MacKinnon as a player, composer and arranger shines through. This is particularly noticeable on Craro a stunning track that welcomes Graham McKenzie, Liam Brolly and Alice Allen as guests. The string arrangement is inspired and simply striking.
The band have collected nominations for both ‘Up and Coming Artist 2013’ and ‘Folk Band 2014’ at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards. The members have also had great success individually, reaching finals of the ‘BBC Young Traditional Musician’ and ‘BBC Young Jazz Musician’. It therefore follows that their talents are sought elsewhere and have taken them on tours with artists such as Skerryvore, Wolfstone, Mischa MacPherson, Rura and the Red Hot Chilli Pipers. The band are continuing to tour extensively together, with some UK dates planned for this October.
Sheep Running About and Looking through Portnahaven are two more show-stoppers to add to the bands ever-growing list. The former is a well-known Martyn Bennett tune which the band play with incredible aptness, doing the tune great justice. The latter set ends with another of MacKinnon’s tunes. As always, her playing is rich and warm, proving her to be a master of her craft.
Bass player Angus Tikka and Manran’s percussionist Mark Scobbie have quickly become the go-to backline pair in recent years. Both members of Fat-Suit, the Snarky Puppy inspired 15 piece jazz band, the two are fully versed in atypical arrangements and always bring a unique sound to what they do. Both are impressive players and their presence has added to the energy of the band and given them a distinctive sound. The pair, alongside Wood and Jappy, co-wrote the next track, Interlude: Breath. Living up to its name, the track allows for some appreciated respite. The track is short and sweet, allowing enough time to digest the first half of the album and to give your feet a much needed rest from their excessive tapping.
McCready’s plays host to a surprising electric guitar solo by guest musician Davie Dunsmuir. The solo is undeniably some of Dunsmuir’s most impressive playing to date and adds great depth to the already brilliant album. With a gentle close, the album ends with Brookehall Bride. The track is honest and raw and leaves the fiddle, guitar and whistle exposed. Rooted in Jappy’s delicate guitar playing, the whistle and fiddle resonate effortlessly throughout.
The Scott Wood Band have delivered a stunning first album and it seems only natural that their already successful career is going to flourish yet again. They have set the bar extremely high, not only for any future recordings that they release, but also for other tune orientated folk bands across the UK. Be sure to see them live and experience their energy and passion for yourself.
Review by: Kim Carnie
Out Now via Oak Ridge Records
Order via Bandcamp
For Tour Dates visit: www.scottwoodband.com