There’s plenty to like on this debut offering from Gnoss: ten tracks showcasing the fine musicianship of two young men from Orkney – Aidan Moodie on guitar and vocals, and Graham Rorie on fiddle and mandolin. Both are students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow and have established themselves on the folk circuit supporting high profile bands such as The Shee and Rura.
I had the pleasure to hear Rhiannon Giddens sing “Black is the Colour” at a Transatlantic Sessions concert in the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow as part of Celtic Connections (read Ian’s review here) so I was slightly wary when I noticed it on the album’s tracklisting. I needn’t have worried though as Aidan has a beautiful way of presenting his songs and the accompaniment on guitar and fiddle is perfect. Somewhat different to that of Ms Giddens, but different is good! Whilst we’re not short of fiddle/guitar duos on the music scene at the moment it’s rare for them to feature singers of the quality of Aidan Moodie.
The album opens to Crantit Park which features a tune written by Aidan paying homage to his family home in Kirkwall, Orkney. Whilst it’s technically a fine opener, it is what follows that left me with a more lasting impression. The Eagle’s Whistle, caught my attention immediately, especially the drones on the fiddle; then came Black is The Colour which changed my mood entirely; pizzicato fiddle and lovely guitar complementing the singing perfectly.
There follows three instrumental tracks including a beautiful slow air Mrs Shirley Rorie and, finally, the tunes take off on the haunting Rumley Point. The playing on this piece is great; measured and evocative it makes me think of mist circling round the point which may or may not exist.
Bonnie Glenshee is one the album highlights, the mandolin provides an original accompaniment, a different take on an old favourite. Again the singing is captivating, simple and effective. Mandolin takes lead again on a set of tunes Thirty Percent before some excellent fiddling and at this point I have to break off to trawl youtube to find out more about Gnoss.
I’m not disappointed and I would have no hesitation in booking them for a live performance. If one thing I would have liked to have heard is more vocal tracks to better showcase the talents they clearly have, but there is plenty here to convince me that Aidan and Graham are superb musicians, not only that, they combine as a superb duo.
Review by: Donald MacNeill
Gnoss is out now and available via Bandcamp here: gnossmusic.bandcamp.com/album/gnoss
Whilst not on the album feast your ears on this great cover by Gnoss of The Games People Play:
Photo Credit: je photographe