Ivan Drever & Friends – Live in Orkney
Orcadian Recordings – 2017
If you fancy receiving a big warm hug from the beautiful Orkney Islands, then this splendidly rich live album, recorded at Orkney Folk Festival and released on Ivan Drever‘s own Orcadian label, is for you. The Orkney native Drever has been working the Scottish folk scene for some quarter of a century now, so it’s no surprise to see he has a wealth of guests accompanying the twelve original songs making up this set. It’s the less expected sounds popping up throughout that delight the most; a tin whistle hovering in the background of ‘The Fisherman’ is to be expected, but the dobro carrying the wonderful instrumental ‘Rose of St Magnus’ is bold and all the more effective for it.
Indeed, there is a fairly broad brush stroke of rock and roll flourishes on here (just listen to ‘Roll Over Stonehaven‘; it could be Mark Knopfler) alongside the traditional Scottish arrangements that could be jarring if handled with less skill. As it is, they work seamlessly together, and the band is tight. The confidence in the musicianship across the recording creates an atmosphere that is far less ‘live’ sounding than you might expect; that’s not to say it’s too polished and studio-built, it just doesn’t put a musical foot wrong, even when the entire City of Kirkwall Pipe Band joins the line up on ‘Ivan Drever’s Compliments‘ to said pipers.
Admittedly, many of the songs are full of instruments, so it is all very different to the beautifully minimal duo work Drever performs with Scottish fiddler Duncan Chisholm, for example, but the arrangements are tasteful, even when they veer slightly towards Americana, as on the sweet ‘Dark Haired Ruby‘, where Drever’s voice oddly resembles a perkier Townes Van Zandt. A little later on instrumental ‘A Peedie Heart‘, the dobro comes to the fore again alongside a gently optimistic acoustic guitar line that is all quite Ry Cooder, until Jennifer Wrigley’s sympathetic fiddle joins in halfway through and subtly changes the whole thing. It’s probably the most spacious song in the set, but also the prettiest and most considered.
Things end in the tradition, with ‘Cleveland Park Set‘, an energetic reel foot stomper, with lively fiddles and guitars led by a sturdy drum beat. It’s a fitting finish to an entertaining musical journey that takes the audience through many moods and styles, without showing any sign of coming off the rails. Great stuff that brings a grin and just makes you wish you were in the audience at the festival in that wonderfully remote part of the world.