Composer, singer and guitarist Calum Wood was commissioned by Visit Cairngorms to promote a new tourist route called the 'Snow Roads', a 90 mile scenic stretch of roads that journey through the The Cairngorms National Park.
Drawing on his own experience of growing up in the area, Calum has produced an evocative and atmospheric EP that combines traditional and contemporary instruments and production over five mostly instrumental tracks.
The sole vocal performance is 'She Wynds On', the opening and, to my ear, stand-out track. A toe-tapping, rhythmic guitar part begins with an immediate sense of movement, maintained by a rising vocal melody. Sung in a warming burr, the lyrics conjure images of 'water through the glen', 'where the stag begin their rut' and the 'snow road she wynds on' - combine this track with the beautiful photograph on the cover of the EP and you'll hardly need to travel at all, you're already there.
The reflective 'Blairgowrie To Braemar' provides a downward change of pace but the remaining tracks manage to maintain the opening momentum - 'Braemar To Ballater' with it's grooving drums, Jethro Tull-esque flute, and electric guitars succeeds in fulfilling the 'music to drive to' brief, and will no doubt inspire a few drumming-on-the-steering-wheel moments.
Closing track 'Tomintoul To Grantown-on-Spey' combines modern rock drums, epic electric guitars, and a repeating keyboard motive that together build to a dramatic post-rock finish - let's hope any drivers taking the Snow Roads keep an eye on the road rather than taking in the expansive view this track seems to suggest awaits them!
Although the instrumental tracks don't quite have the ear worm quality of the opening song they maintain a sense of space and wonder - the blend of instrumentation and changes of pace throughout capture the twists, turns, and vistas of many a countryside drive that this writer as taken and, though I've not driven the Snow Road myself, if the landscape is anything as widescreen as the finest moments of this EP then I'm packing my bags.
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