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Gary Innes Gary Innes
Album: E R A
Label: GHI
Tracks: 10

This, Innes's second album is a mix of genial tunes and songs. The accordionist from Spean Bridge in the Highlands of Scotland has been playing professionally in a number of guises for fifteen years, and having recently taken over the BBC Scotland "Take the Floor" dance-band programme from the legendary Robbie Shepherd, is very much the face of the younger generation of box players. Innes has gathered a healthy swatch of luminaries to help out on this album, including Ewen Henderson on fiddle and Ali Hutton on guitars and bagpipes, as well as guest spots from Jarlath Henderson on uilleann pipes and Siobhan Miller on vocals on one song.

And the guests do help Innes to create a real dance appetite for about 60% of proceedings, from the lilting Hebridean opening of Yarra Wine Valley, which reaches a crescendo with "The Herring", and into the gentler "Road to Lochaber" which melds pipes and keys nicely enough. And then, for me, the problems begin. "The Caman Man" is an ode to the Highland sport of shinty, which is fair enough, but it comes across as a bit earnest, as Robert Robertson's tenor voice extols the "Game of the Gaels".

Order is restored, with a couple of immaculate sets of tunes composed by Innes, and dedicated to significant events in his life which, admirably enough, seem to involve copious alcoholic intake, in between which is slotted a lovely wee tune "May Life Always Be Peachy", written by Innes for his brother's wedding. Another song "Zara" features Miller on vocals, and is dedicated to Innes's niece. I have to say that Miller's voice is almost overwhelmed by the sentiment of the song and the massed backing vocals, keyboards and accordion.

"I Can't Sing Tonight" is a jazzy brew of accordian and Hamish Napier's keys, over a solid rhythm provided by Duncan Lyall and Steve Byrne, which shifts up a gear with each change of tune in the set. As it pounds towards its climax with pipes and flute joining in, you can hear this one being a favourite at outdoor festivals this year if we ever get a summer!

"Grace and Pride" is another earnest song, this time with vocals from Alec Dalglish, composed by Innes in response to the Independence Referendum result in 2014, and the closer "Our Heroes" is written in tribute to a Highland piper, Donald Patterson, killed at the Battle of Festubert in 1915 and whose pipes, retrieved from the field, are played on the track by Duncan McGillivray. There is an uncredited reading which sounds to my ear like Innes's Radio Scotland colleague Ian Anderson.

There's some great playing on here, and the instrumental numbers are, to me, very much more engaging than the songs, but well worth investigating for all that.

Harry Thomson