Tag Archives: Paul McKenna Band

Folk: album review – Various artists ‘Sense of the Place’

Featuring ten esteemed Scottish folk artists, the Sense of the Place album was commissioned by Stonehaven Folk Club with support from Aberdeenshire Council as part of the club’s Folk-In-Crisis-Fund to provide financial relief to performing artists whose livelihoods were seriously impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

An impressive endeavour in itself but this Sense of the Place no random ‘best-of’ style sampler but rather a collection of specially-commissioned and newly-recorded songs drawn from a reference archive of historical and geographical material relating to the coast lands between Findon and St. Cyrus in the north-east of Scotland.

To bring the project to fruition ten songwriters, were invited to use the archive to create ten new songs inspired by the area’s history, culture and geography. It’s a spectacularly ambitious projects with stunning results.

Some internationally acclaimed, others well known locally, there’s a top-notch array of folk singer-songwriters including Iona Fyfe, Kris Drever, Jenny Sturgeon, Findlay Napier and Paul McKenna. Musical accompaniment is provided by Aaron Jones, Mhairi Hall, Emma Smith, Jen Austin and Mike Vass.

Themes for the songs include the tale of Lady Finella – who was assassinated by a Scottish king; a celebration of Aberdeenshire’s Todhead Lighthouse – and those who worked to keep it alight; and the story of the Cutty Sark – told from the point of view of the ship!

It’s a really lovely album raising much-needed funds for an important initiative. Last year, the folk world came together under the #folkforchristmas hashtag to encourage folk fans to support folk artists by buying an album. I’m not sure if there is going to be a similar initiative this Christmas but one way or the other if you’re a folk fan I recommend you put this on your Christmas list.

Released: 27th August 2021


Folk: album review – Various artists ‘Between Islands’

Folk: album review – Jenny Sturgeon ‘The Living Mountain’

Folk: album review -Paul McKenna Band ‘Paths That Wind’

Folk: album review -Paul McKenna Band ‘Paths That Wind’

My review was originally published by Bright Young Folk here

Now celebrating their tenth anniversary, The Paul McKenna Band release their fourth album and continue to cement their reputation as one of Scotland’s premier folk bands. Indeed, “the best folk band to come out of Scotland in the last twenty years,” as the New York Times would have it.

Although no-one would claim they offer a wholesale re-invention of Scottish folk music there is, nevertheless, a fresh and contemporary feel to the band’s sound. Guitar, bouzouki, fiddle, flute and whistles combine to produce a sound that’s accessible, interesting and highly listenable.

This is in no small part assisted by McKenna’s warm and engaging vocals which add a depth and sincerity to the material. As well as regular band members, Paul McKenna, Sean Gray, Ewan Baird and Conor Markey there are also guest slots from a number of notable musicians on the Scottish music scene, like John McCusker (who also produces the album), Rod Patterson, Mike Vass and James Lindsay.

The album comprises eight songs and two tunes, combining original material with some traditional songs as well as some well-chosen covers. Of the self-penned material, highlights include opening track Long Days, which reflects on the age old theme of homesickness: “the grass is always green until we tried to walk it” and here we have some lovely guitar and mandolin that complements McKenna’s lyrics perfectly.

As well as some highly personal lyrics, the band are not afraid to tackle controversial themes either: The Dream is a song written by McKenna about Freddie Gray who died at the hands of the Baltimore Police at the time the band were based in the USA. It’s a thoughtful song reflecting on a brutal episode and evoking the spirit of Martin Luther King: “What happened to the dream, we shall overcome, and walk hand in hand together to the setting of the sun.” Beautiful music, powerful lyrics and warm and very human vocals make this a definite stand-out on the album.

Of the non-original material noteworthy tracks include a lovely version of the traditional Irish song, The Banks of The Moy as well as a heartfelt cover of Peggy Seeger’s anti-fascist anthem, Song of Choice.

Paths That Wind is a strong album that will help consolidate The Paul McKenna Band’s fan-base and, hopefully, win them many new ones. Engaging vocals, thoughtful songs and high standards of musicianship make this an album to be highly recommended.

Released April 2016