Ardnamurchan composer releases new traditional album Glendrian

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Multi-instrumentalist and composer Kenneth I MacKenzie has announced the release of a new Scottish traditional music album inspired by the history and landscape of the Highlands.

Glendrian takes its listeners on a journey through north-west Scotland, from Sanna to Uist.

The album’s title track takes its name from a depopulated settlement in Ardnamurchan – a peninsula in Lochaber and area with family connections for Kenny. The lament’s poignant pipes reflect the hardship and poverty people experienced in Glendrian living off the land and the sea.

Elsewhere, slow low whistle tunes pay tribute to some of the names and faces of the Highlands and Islands, including Lexie a’chook, named after Lexie McNiven, daughter of ‘Norman the cook’ from the Isle Of Berneray on North Uist, and Marie MacKenzie’s Welcome to Caberfeidh, which was composed by Kenny for his wife Marie after her first visit to his family house in Sanna.

The vast majority of tunes on Glendrian were composed by Kenny, while composer and musical director Will Marshall lent his valued creative input on the arrangements. The album boasts a stellar bill of Scottish folk talent, with Kenny’s whistle, Highland pipes, digital chanter and harmonica and Will’s piano and accordion accompanied by Marie Fielding on fiddle, Tom Oakes on guitar and flute and Rory Grindlay on drums.

Kenny inherited a love for the harmonica from his father, Ian, and this respect for the instrument comes into full focus in the atmospheric Sunset on Sunart. The air perfectly captures the treasured experience of watching the light slowly sink after a long summer day in Scotland.

The album also features a specially-composed tune for the legendary Gaelic singer and TV personality Alasdair Gillies MBE, penned by Kenny after Alasdair received his MBE in 2018. The tune has become popular with pipers, pipe bands and other trad session players in recent years. Recorded here for the first time, it features harmonica maestro Donald Black, Kenny on digital chanter and the man himself on guest vocals urging listeners to ‘take the floor’.

With his musical roots in world-class pipe bands, Kenny has been involved in Scottish traditional music since the age of 14. Highlights of his far-reaching musical career include performing on Toyota Pipes and Drums’ Amazing Grace album – one of the bestselling pipe band albums of all time – and playing around the world including in Denmark, Norway, Russia, Hong Kong and the US.

Among his many influential compositions are The Men of the Clyde, written as a tribute to the shipyard workers of the River Clyde and Oor Wullie – Scotland’s Oldest Wee Boy, which was re-produced by ‘Stuart ‘Woody’ Wood (Bay City Rollers) and Gordon Campbell and features on their albums, Oor Wullie Sing a long Favourites and A Big Bucket full o tunes.

Kenny MacKenzie said: ‘I’ve spent the last few years composing the tunes featured on this album. To my delight, many of them seemed to resonate with trad music fans and fellow musicians online over lockdown and it spurred me on to record this collection of material – my first album in almost 20 years.

‘Music and a love of playing is at the heart of Glendrian and it’s been a joy to play in my own style and to create and share new tunes that cherish a traditional feel. The harmonica is a big part of this album, and it feels wonderful to incorporate this instrument throughout.

‘From a love of the Scottish Highlands and Western Isles to applauding the one and only Alasdair Gillies, I think there’s something quite special about these tunes that I hope other Scottish music enthusiasts enjoy.’

The album was recorded in autumn 2021 by engineer and producer Garry Boyle at Slate Room Studio in Pencaitland.

Glendrian will be available to buy on CD from on Friday February 11.