It’s 10 p.m. in Scotland when I finally reach Craig Espie, fiddler for Skerryvore. He is enjoying quality time with family before the Scottish trad band departs for a 13-stop North American tour that includes St. Albert’s Arden Theatre.
The Together Again Tour is the eight-piece band’s third one to the Arden, where they’ve enjoyed two pervious sold-out concerts. Listeners can expect to hear a fusion of Scottish folk, rock, contemporary pop, and Americana mixed with lively party banter.
A recent sample of their positive vibe is voiced in the Together Again single, a joyous, upbeat anthem celebrating the continuity of life after COVID. Much of their music, whether instrumental or accompanied by vocals, brings a smile to listeners' faces and applause for superb musicianship.
Espie notes that the band’s music has evolved due to the various musical tastes and skills of each band member. Although the band started as a four-piece 17 years ago performing traditional pieces at pubs, weddings, and Ceilidh’s, currently there is greater emphasis on self-penned material.
But even with undercurrents of pop, rock, and jazz, the powerful mix of fiddles, accordions, pipes, and whistles meshed with guitar, vocals, bass, drums, and keys continues to radiate a powerful hallmark of Scottish tradition.
As with every other musician across the planet, COVID forced the band to improvise during lockdown. The band’s 2020 single, Everyday Heroes, recorded in isolation from a home studio, became a national hit. That same year it won Original Work of the Year at the MG ALBA Scottish Trad Music Awards.
“Every Thursday in the United Kingdom, we would stand outside in the front garden and applaud the workers. Martin Gillespie was inspired by that and wrote Everyday Heroes. It went to No. 1 in the official Scottish music charts, and we made a lot of friends. People came up to us and thanked us and we were able to raise money for the NFS (National Health Staff) charities.” Espie said.
In addition to Espie’s dexterous fiddling, the band’s current lineup features Alec Dalglish (guitar, vocals), Martin Gillespie (bagpipes, whistles), Daniel Gillespie (accordion), Scott Wood (bagpipes, whistles), Jodie Bremaneson (bass), Alan Scobie (keyboard), and Fraser West (drums).
Their latest album, Live Across Scotland, was recorded as part of a Scottish winter tour in some of the country’s most interesting and offbeat venues during December 2019. The 15-track takes listeners to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness, and places in between.
“We had wanted to do a live album for quite a while and in this album each track has a different audience,” Espie said. One of the band’s cherished spots was the Inverness Ironworks Music Studio, a venue with state-of-the-art equipment.
He added the band wrote and recorded an album set for release in 2023. They initially wanted to release it this year. But with surging interest in vinyl, the band opted to release it in both CD and vinyl formats.
“But production is currently very slow. It’s backed up across Europe. A lot of the final post-production for vinyl is done in the Ukraine or Russia and right now because of the war we’re looking at a six-month backlog.”
Excited to be back on the road, Espie said, “We’ve been to the Arden Theatre before, and it would be great to make new friends. I can’t wait to come.”
Skerryvore performs Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Arden Theatre, 5 St. Anne St. Tickets are $44 plus facility fees. Tickets are available at 780-459-1542 or online at tickets.stalbert.ca.