I’ve had the distinct pleasure of seeing Talisk, one of last year’s Danny Kyle Award winners, play two Celtic Connections sets. They played at the Royal Concert Hall’s Strathclyde Suite ahead of Kathleen MacInnes and Co, and later in the week were at St Andrew’s In The Square to support The Gathering Stream (review to follow soon).
Glasgow based trio Talisk have been making their mark on the live music circuit since forming in 2014. As well as last year’s Danny Kyle Award the band also picked up the 2015 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, both of which ensured them some high-exposure performances, such as Cambridge Folk Festival, Fairport Convention’s Cropredy Festival and, of course, Celtic Connections 2016.
Their opening set, Ballyhoura, established their roots as very much in the Scottish/Irish tradition, their fondness for starting off at a gallop – and speeding up from there. That pace is driven along by guitarist Craig Irving, from Inverness. Craig has been tutored in guitar at Lews Castle College, Benbecula by the likes of Matheu Watson and Mike Bryan and has been in high demand as a session musician; especially at festivals such as Celtic Connections and Piping Live. His ability to keep the band’s selection of jigs and reels moving along is easily matched by the finesse and ingenuity of his lighter touches when required.
While Craig steadfastly keeps the groove steady in the background, concertina player Mohsen Amini is very much at the forefront. Mohsen’s button-based dexterity has won him numerous trad competition awards over the years, and his contributions to Talisk’s live sets are impressive, to say the least. Taking the pace to almost unheard of levels at times, during the trad tune Pull The Knife And Stick It Again his fingers are a blur.
All that pace has to be tempered, though, and fiddler Hayley Keenan, although perfectly able to keep up with the lads, is more than up to the task of presenting a more gentle option. After three years learning the piano, Haylay switched to the fiddle at age 11. Since 2008 she’s enjoyed the very best tuition at the Junior Academy of Music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Plockton’s National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music and (currently) Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Taking the lead in Catherine Fraser’s beautiful slow reel, The Hills Of Kaitoke, Haylay demonstrates as much empathy as she does skill.
Abyss was, I think, the set that displayed their impressive range most effectively. Although opening at a gentle pace there was just the right amount of fire from Mohsen’s concertina, a thoroughly demanding repeated riff for Haylay’s fiddle, steadfast guitar rhythms and a delicate touch to close from Craig. All in all a very fine performance indeed.
Being fairly new on the scene, Talisk have, to date, released just one E.P., Pinnacle 67, but have assured us that an album is due very shortly, and they already have a string of festival dates booked up and down the country.
Talisk clearly enjoy, indeed thrive on, injecting some fire into their sets, every bit as much as the audience enjoy hearing it. Although they’re also very capable of taking their music along a more sedate route, that pace is quite remarkable. I’m lucky to have seen them twice, it was a chance to catch anything I missed if I happened to blink the first time around!
And hearty congratulations to Concertina player Mohsen Amini, who on sunday was the winner of BBC Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year. Well done!
Review by: Neil McFadyen
For tour dates visit: talisk.co.uk