When Barley Reaches the Shore (SAV005CD Woodland Records 2018)
by Bill Johnson
Alastair is a classically trained violinist who combines his seat in the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra with an active participation in the heritage music of Scotland. Alastair’s respect for the tunes within the Gow, Skinner and Marshall collections is showcased here together with some of his own compositions.
The CD comprises instrumental music of the highest quality throughout. Alastair is joined by long time colleagues, Iain Crawford, Co-Principal Bass of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and a player within the ‘tradition’, and Euan Drysdale on piano and guitar, a trained and experienced musician with a broad CV. The music is organised by reference to the source for the tunes presented, and expertly arranged in a disciplined Scottish style which may be distinct from the general approach to folk music in other British traditions, allowing for exceptions. Some of the tunes presented are familiar in a social and session context, for example, Farewell to Whisky and Hector the Hero. I discovered that a hitherto anonymous tune which I have played for many years is a Gow composition, Highland Whisky. Alastair’s own compositions sit easily with the older tunes. I thoroughly enjoyed his two sets of Islay Wedding Music, and The Soldier’s Prayer. My favourite piece on the CD is Chapel Keithack from the William Marshall collection.