Talisk and The Adam Sutherland Band performed as a double billing at The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh tonight as part of the Tradfest 2019 programme. Both bands will already be familiar to regulars of the Soundhouse Traverse (Soundhouse are also organisers of this year’s Tradfest) and are two favourites from last year’s performers.
Someone had to be on-stage first tonight, so in no order of meritorious preference, that opening performance was from The Adam Sutherland Band. Adam Sutherland is one of the musicians at the forefront of contemporary Scottish fiddle music and his talents as a musician and composer have already won him many fans both in Scotland and further afield. Many fans also will have followed Adam through some of the bands that he has been a part of (The Treacherous Orchestra, Session A9, Peatbog Faeries, Babelfish and Croft no. Five) over the years.
Adam Sutherland’s talents as a fiddler and composer are obvious, and songs from his current album (Some Other Land) performed in this set, including “The Wizard” and “Emma’s Waltz” and “The Lada” show a quality to Adam’s work that I hope will allow his music to be around for a very long time to come and perhaps become part of the musical heritage that future generations of players find inspiration from.
Despite Adam Sutherland’s fine performance on Scottish music, I found some of his composition ventures into different musical traditions interesting as we moved into Indian influenced musical themes and the more jazz influenced “Iris” – a song written in remembrance of his grandmother. I always have a liking for musicians who are crossing musical borders and mixing influences that they find elsewhere, and the freshness that this brings to their work is always welcome.
In contrast to the at times gentle and melodic music of Adam Sutherland, our second half performance brought to stage Talisk. How best to describe this band trio of musicians? Well a “high energy musical locomotive train coming straight down the tracks at high speed” would be a pretty good description. As a band, Talisk were only formed in 2014, but already in a very short time, the talents of Mohsen Amini (concertina), Hayley Keenan (fiddle) and Graeme Armstrong (guitar) have won several major awards and established the band as firm favourites at many venues and festivals across the world. Watching Mohsen Amini perform centre-stage with Talisk is like watching sheer energy about to explode at any time.
As well as appearing at this years Tradfest, Talisk are also currently on tour and although the “touring trail” may get a little weary at times, it does mean that Talisk are currently razor sharp and tight as a band.
It is easy to understand why Talisk are so popular as a band, and they bring that much needed energy of youth to traditional music in abundance. Along the way they are part of a new wave of musicians who are attracting a much needed younger audience to “Celtic/Traditional” music and cross-over bands like Talisk are always needed, but rarely turn up to capture a new audience’s imagination. Talisk are obviously a band used to playing festivals and dance-floor spaces, so the arrangements at The Queen’s Hall tonight which was a mixture of pew seating (it is an former church) and cabaret table/seating was perhaps not their natural audience, but even then the band played on as if this was the biggest dance hall in town and in the end had people out of their seats, and with songs in the set that included “Crooked Water Valley” (from The Beyond album) that was no surprise in the end.
Is playing fast like a runaway freight train good though? Well, when at this standard, a definite YES, but as clearly shown tonight, when Talisk want to slow things down a little, they can do that with effortless ease too.
Also on stage tomight with Talisk was BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year, Benedict Morris. Benedict has also been performing with Talisk on some of their tour dates whilst Hayley Keenan has been on holiday.
In my mind’s eye, I sort of imagine this band as turning up to play in some remote cottage by the shores of a loch somewhere and once they arrive, the music just gets louder and faster and the party goes on long into the early hours of the morning.
Review by Tom King