Saturday, 30 January 2010

Unusual Suspects

Photo by Lieve Boussauw

…the performance of a lifetime, they rewrote the book on how folk music should look and sound… If you witnessed this extraordinary performance, you can look back years from now and say: "I was there." Unforgettable.'

" It's big, bold, brassy, and adventurous... This whirlwind of sound takes Scottish music to unimagined heights."

How it all kicked off...

The Unusual Suspects is the brainchild of its musical directors Corrina Hewat & David Milligan.

They first came up with the idea almost a decade ago, but it wasn't until Glasgow's Celtic Connections Festival director Colin Hynd offered them a platform to put their 'folk-orchestra theory' into practice, that this monster band became a reality.

On a Sunday afternoon, late in January 2003, thirty-two of Scotland's finest and most dynamic musicians took to the stage of the main auditorium in Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall as part of the 10th Celtic Connections Festival. What followed was described by the Herald newspaper as:

"...a beautiful noise. A jigging, reeling juggernaut... brilliantly arranged - the putative 'Scottish National Folk Orchestra' walloped off the main auditorium stage in sound waves that thumped into your chest with the impact of a benign piledriver"

The Scotsman newspaper said: "This was the gig that had been generating the biggest advance buzz of Celtic Connections 2003 - and what a total, massive, glorious blast it turned out to be... awesome power - a harmonious, often uproarious dance between full-throttle rampage and orchestrated finess."

The concert was hailed as the crowning glory of that year's festival, and in 2004 The Unusual Suspects made a triumphant return appearance at Celtic Connections. The 2004 festival concert was followed by a UK tour put together by Folkworks, a wonderful organisation based in the north east of England, dedicated to promoting and furthering traditional & contemporary folk music. Due to touring logistics, a mere 22-piece(!) version of the band went on the road, and played to critical acclaim and nightly standing ovations the length of the country, from London to Inverness.

 click here to visit their site 

In the band's first five years, they've done dozens of performances in venues from large concert halls and theatres, down to Village Halls. Since they started, over 60 of Scotland's top musicians have performed with the group! 

In addition to performing and touring with the mighty Scottish band, Corrina and David, along with horn-section leader Rick Taylor, have also collaborated with Canadian musician, singer and songwriter Gordie Sampson to produce the Unusual Suspects of Celtic Colours, for the Celtic Colours Festival in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The project consisted of Canadian and Scottish musicians, sharing their respective traditions to create a unique and wonderful sound.

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Andy the Daft Hermit lives 45 minutes outside Inverness with his wife Mel in an old bus parked in a layby. This current home of theirs is the longest they have ever stayed in one spot. “I’ve been travelling now 25 years,” said Andy Lowe. “Mel’s been travelling 15. One of the reasons we’ve come and stayed up here is because of Mel’s health. I wanted to bring her to the mountains for fresh air and clean water and just a slower pace of life.” Mel has had breast cancer twice, skin cancer once, and for three years believed she had bone cancer after being wrongly diagnosed. Andy’s belief in the restorative powers of the north made them pack up ‘The Black Bus’ that they live in and cross the border into Scotland. New Highland home for hermit couple Andy and Mel “I think we both believe in trying to get to a more simple way of life,” said Andy, “but it’s strange for us because we are sort of hermits, or we like to live separate, but it’s not being anti-social… it’s just the way we are that allows us to be creative.” Andy first began travelling when he left the army. Fed up with bureaucracy he packed a rucksack and left for France and has been travelling ever since. By investing any money the couple have earned into solar panels and wind generators they now live a self-sustaining existence, without electric bills, and collect rain water “straight from Heaven”. “It’s not easy,” said Mel. “There might be time when there might not be enough facilities around, but you always find a way, you know?” Rather than rejecting technology, Andy blogs about his travels online and collaborates with artists from around the world via his ‘Scratchy Heid Film Studio’, which he runs from a static trailer next to the couple’s bus. He explained his philosophy: “My belief is that if you can go through life and you drop dead and you’ve got a balance there that slightly outweighs the good than the bad, you’ve done alright. “Yesterday, with what Mel’s been through with the cancer and all that, I had a woman on one of my sites there that thanked me for the writing, for the positive things, and to me that’s worth everything. You can keep your millions, we’re not interested. That is what we do.” To check out Andy’s artwork and video projects check out his website. MORE FROM THE NORTH

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