Home   Lifestyle   Article

REVIEW: Elephant Sessions (with The Trad Project)

By Kyle Walker

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Elephant Sessions brought a storming hooley home to the Ironworks.
Elephant Sessions brought a storming hooley home to the Ironworks.

The Ironworks, Inverness


Talk about a Highland homecoming.

As much a celebration of their achievements as it was a concert, Elephant Sessions – four of whom are from around Inverness – capped off a massive few months for the group with a vibrant, energetic showcase of modern traditional music in front of a boisterous, rampant and close-to-packed out Ironworks crowd.

It helps that the crowd were already suitably warmed up for a rowdy rammy after an equally superb turn from support group The Trad Project. Fronted by rising Moray singer-songwriter Calum Mackenzie Jones, this was nothing short of a star-making turn for the group.

Combining instrumental trad stompers with hook-filled pop numbers, the band created anthems out of numbers people had never heard before as frontman Calum led the crowd through each easily-chanted chorus.

Elephant Sessions and The Trad Project.
Elephant Sessions and The Trad Project.

There’s a natural charisma to the 19-year-old (pictured left) as he chats between each song, riles the audience up during each number with a verve of a veteran showman.

“This whole ‘standing still’ thing doesn’t work for us,” he proclaims at the start of the their set. By the end, the last thing the Ironworks wanted to do was stand still.

To be fair though, I suspect that standing still might be a medical impossibility when it comes to the music of Elephant Sessions. The support band could have played 45 minutes of funereal dirges, and the crowd would have still gone wild the moment the neo-trad quintet tear into their first number – introduced simply as “a new one”.

The band tear into it with a ferocious energy, bathed in flashing lights and the occasional sudden burst of smoke as the Ironworks builds an atmosphere like a festival tent.

It’s a take on traditional music built for the festival tents though, and one that’s as fascinating to watch as it is fun to jump about semi-rhyhmically to. The bass, the guitar and the classic drum kit (battered into dust with a hard-rock intensity by Greg Barry) give each song a certain pounding groove beyond the genre’s usual confines.

And the band’s de facto frontmen – lightning-fingered mandolin player Alasdair Taylor and kinetic foot-stomping fiddler Euan Sinclair, who shared the music’s melodies between them – serve as the perfect hypemen. Introducing the funk-tinged Misty Badger, the more Alasdair explains where the name comes from (the lethal tequila/absinthe concoction that Johnny Foxes offers brave/foolhardy punters) before delightedly announcing “we tell people about it hoping for free stuff from Foxes – it’s finally worked!” The place erupts, obviously.

Alasdair Taylor (left) and Euan Smillie kept the crowd wound up with their energetic string melodies.
Alasdair Taylor (left) and Euan Smillie kept the crowd wound up with their energetic string melodies.

Whereas Alasdair’s charm is relaxed and laidback, Euan’s is far more manic in nature, his feet hammering dents into the stage floor with every number as his fingers fly across the fiddle’s fingerboard.

His repeated screams of “INVERNESSSSSS” are responded to by guttural cheers from the crowd, each time with more intensity as the band burns through their set at a blistering pace.

It’s a perfect Friday night experience to be honest. As the band come out for an encore, greeted by that most famous of Scottish festival chants (it contains words unsuitable for publication in a family newspaper and starts with the words, “Here we, here we...”) and play out one barnstormer – the explosive Doofer – there could have been no greater homecoming than this.

“It’s so good to be back in Inverness,” Alasdair says just before that final burst of music. With a set like this – and the rapturous reception they received – it’s no wonder why.

What did you think? Comment below or tweet Kyle: @spp_kwalker

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More