Summer’s almost gone and the nights are drawing in. Almost time to light the fires and gather round the hearth and a perfect time to consider listening to Isle of Lewis musician Iain Morrison’s peaty and misty soundscapes. Morrison is a Scot steeped in local musical tradition, his father a famed piper, and schooled in the bagpipe tradition of Ceol Mor aka The Big Music but his albums have been of a singer songwriter bent up until now. On Eas Morrison returns to his roots with the album composed around piobaireachd, the classic form of the Highland pipes and he weaves a mystical and moving tapestry that is wreathed in Gaelic and reeks of Celtic mystery. In a similar manner to The Unthanks and Seth Lakeman (and the late Martyn Bennett) Morrison is creating a new music carved from the past. He summons up folk memories be it Ewan McColl’s radio ballads or the witchy weirdness of The Wickerman soundtrack with a nod to the likes of Robert Wyatt and his sonic soupiness.
The album ebbs and flows like the tide. There are grand moments as on the anthemic ending to My Letting Go and the tribal chorus on the barbed folk rock of To The Sea while there’s grainy, almost Grierson like documented snapshots such as Too Long In This Condition which features the voice of Donald MacLeod, a late legend in piping circles, over a restrained piano led backing. Crackle features piper Allan McDonald speaking in Gaelic as pipes and fiddle gently gather before the song transforms into a misty lament with a nice vocal clamour. Morrison’s whispered voice creeps throughout the album with the opening and atmospheric Subhal (47) summoning up visions of misty moors, Eas, a mighty flight into a Celtic faeryland which knocks the likes of the music for Lord Of The Rings for six. On A Flame Of Wrath For Patrick Caogach Morrison strides magnificently on a ballad suffused with woody cello, strident whistle and pulsating percussion before The Little Spree sneaks in as a tender love song where Morrison is ably assisted by Lori Watson on vocals.
Some albums set a mood and Eos is one of these. The Scottishness of it all is a balm for anyone pining for Highland mist but it stands out as a brave example of new strains arising from old refrains.
Iain Morrison will be playing some Scottish dates later this year. Dates here