The 2017 Islay Sessions is done and dusted and what a weekend it was! Music, drams and craic for three days, and most exciting of all – the release of Fraser Shaw’s much anticipated tune book.
The weekend started strongly with an intense gig with Scots Trad Award Composer of the Year nominee Adam Sutherland, and Mark Clement in a guitar/vocals and fiddle duo, blending perfectly a range of musical styles into the traditional, revealing highly honed musical skills.
Saturday opened with a workshop opportunity for both the very young and those less so, under the guidance of Scots Trad Award Tutor of the Year nominee Emma Tomlinson, ably assisted by Adam Sutherland. Appropriately, Emma and Adam chose to use Fraser Shaw’s musical tribute to fellow Port Charlotte Hotel colleague Graham Allison. A slow session afterwards gave more opportunity for those of us practising new skills.
A tour of a few distilleries took place that afternoon, with visits to Bruichladdich, Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain by two bus loads of eager festival attendees. A wee stop at Fraser’s seat, overlooking Lochindaal, for a toast to the man himself was a necessity, with the launch of his tune book taking place that very night.
Saturday night at the Islay Sessions was the big one – a packed Bruichladdich Hall was treated first to a rousing performance of the music learned in the morning workshop. Next up was some beautiful and ethereal Gaelic songs from Joy Dunlop, joined by Mhairi Marwick and Ron Jappy on fiddle and guitar, followed by the guitar and mandolin playing, and lyrical vocals of Jen Butterworth and Laura-Beth Salter.
Finally, the moment arrived for Fraser’s tune book to be introduced: his brother Greig gave a beautiful speech about him and his dream to release a book, after which it’s first few copies were presented to a few people who were key to getting this immense project off the ground. Then, the book was available for sale for everyone!
After a token raffle, fiery young band Tannara took to the stage, finishing off the concert with a pulsing set of contemporary and traditional tunes and songs. At the end of the concert, all musicians in the room got up to finish the night off with a favourite composition of Fraser’s: The C-Side.
A necessarily quiet Sunday ended perfectly with the guitar and vocals of Innes Watson, who seamlessly shared love, laughter and wine whilst creating a potential new tour band from the exuberant and vocal audience!
As as the case for each night at the festival, a late night session in the Port Charlotte Hotel bar rounded off the festival.
Don’t forget that you can still vote for for Mac Ìle: The Music of Fraser Shaw as Album of the Year in the Scots Trad Awards – voting closes this coming Friday 24th November, and winners will be announced on December 2nd at the Awards Ceremony in Paisley which will be broadcasted live on BBC Alba.
‘…there’s a real sense of joy and celebration of life within the album. Not just a celebration of Shaw’s life, but a celebration of life itself.’ – Bright Young Folk