Islay guitarist releases first solo album

Robin Miller. Photo by Martin Gray.

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Hebridean musician Robin Miller has released his debut solo album ‘Beelines’.

It features songs inspired by a focused hedgehog, Gortantaoid Point near Loch Gruinart, the Arizona guitarist Rainer Ptacek and the Wyre Majestic, a ship wrecked on the rocks between Islay and Jura.

Robin was born on South Uist but grew up on Barra and then in Gruinart, a remote part of Islay.

‘Half the island would go to the monthly auctions. These started off with livestock and finished off with second hand goods like old LPs,’ he said.

‘When I had some money from stacking peat or chopping logs, this was where I bought the records that opened my imagination. This is how I first heard Bert Jansch and Nick Drake.’

Moving to Glasgow in his late teens, Robin busked at night and played with folk bands, eventually touring in France and Italy as a session player.

His eclectic finger-picking style became an integral part of Glasgow world music act Zuba and helped their 2005 album ‘Allez’ to achieve the JPF African Album of the Year award and be described by Bob Harris as ‘truly brilliant’.

After moving back to Argyll to work in elderly care, Robin returned to acoustic roots playing.

‘Beelines’, Robin Miller’s first album, was recorded in Glasgow in a single afternoon with no overdubs. ‘Beelines’ features 13 tracks of deft melody-driven finger-picking. It is a natural sound with little adornment.

The tracks hint at the holy trinity of ’60s British finger-style guitar – Bert Jansch, Davy Graham and John Renbourn – display a touch of Hebridean heritage and bring in influences from around the world.

The title track ‘Beelines’ references Robin’s father’s lifelong beekeeping passion.

The Moorish ‘Jessie’s Kaftan’ started life in Glasgow and was completed after a trip to Morocco.

‘Rainer’ is a moving slide-guitar tribute to the much-missed Arizona musician Rainer Ptacek.

‘Tigh-na-Beart’ and ‘Birthe Marie Sails to Lunga’ reference the Western Isles; the metallic ‘Wyre Majestic’ is a musical sketch of the famous rusting shipwreck caught on the rocks between Islay and Jura.

‘Although the album is instrumental, I had fairly clear ideas about what I wanted each tune to say emotionally or in relation to the musicians who have inspired me,’ said Robin.

‘I hope this can be wordlessly conveyed to anyone listening. Hopefully the melodies and emotion come across more than the technique.’