31.7.08

Iain Morrison & The Sleepy Cafe Band, 19th July 2008, An Lanntair (review)

Performing songs largely taken from the recent album, 'Skimming Stones...Sinking Boats', and the earlier, 'Empty Beer Bottles and Peat Fire Smoke', Iain Morrison's music is an enigmatic and truly original mix of creative elements, that in a very large part is very much his own, and which, beyond its immediate sonorous beauty, has a depth of startlingly imaginative, even surreal, observation that equals the likes of Bjork (but without the twee, pouty twists) and Howe Gelb at their most introspective and personal best. At times it's contemporary acoustic rock, at other times, its part folk band, part troubadour's tribe. But then, you're running with some lightning quick sets on pipes and whistles.
In this musical journey, Iain has taken with him fellow poet Daibhidh Martin of Lochs who contributed the words to two of the bands finest songs - 'Skimming Stones' and 'Winter, Part 1' - and performs with the band in a kind of speak-over, recital style above the music. Daibhidh's contribution, one senses, is as much directional as it is material, encouraging his counter-point (not too much encouragement needed, one suspects) in pushing the shape and imagery of the material into some truly original places. The impact is really in terms of narrative, of story-telling, of mythologising, but also of grounding the entire scheme in new island sensibilities.
Attempts to pin Iain Morrison's style into neat comparisons and influences have, as a consequence seen mentions for the likes of Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake. But think also of Donovan, Lou Reed and David Byrne, and yep, you'd be no closer to forcing Iain Morrison's music into the mould of your choosing. What can be said for certain is that Iain Morrison has managed to find a sound world in which all the disparate parts of his musical knowing and inclination combine in an invisible and effortless blend. That, and the fact that he is as good a piper as you'll see anywhere on your musical travels - but then, you'd expect nothing less from the son of the great pipe major himself, Iain Morrison (a.k.a Dad, as Iain Jnr calls him) - makes this one the most original bands to emerge from the Long Isle in many a year.
The large, very mixed crowd at An Lanntair confirm the wide appeal of Iain Morrison's music, that and the fact that the Gaelic music and piping he grew up with have no need to lurk in a cosy, self-reflective ghetto.
(Peter Urpeth - Hi-Arts)