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Hamish NapierHamish Napier
Album: The River
Label: Strathspey Music
Tracks: 11

The description of being a multi-faceted multi-instrumentalist can be applied to many of the exceptional talents within the flourishing Scottish music scene but is especially true of Hamish Napier. A composer, band leader, accompanist, teacher and lecturer, this is a man filling every spare second! Fortunately, he's filled some of it with composing and recording his latest project, The River. Premiered at Celtic Connections, this is an album inspired by the beautiful River Spey. Throughout every track you can hear the landscape and its wildlife, including some curlews, herons and oyster catchers bringing the river to life. The opening track, Mayfly, really captures the swirling dance of the male Mayfly attracting mates. The piano and whistle intertwines beautifully, evoking the merry dance of the flies. Another swirling number is The Whirlpool. An intricately composed round, this is a thanks to those who supported Hamish in his postgraduate studies at Berklee, as well as being inspired by a whirlpool on the Spey.

A completely different picture is created in The Drowning of the Silver Brothers. This is based on a combination of the mysterious drowning of two brothers in 1933 and the legend of the Kelpie, malevolent river spirits in the form of horses that would drag unsuspecting travellers to their deaths in the depths of the Spey and other rivers in Scotland. The eerie quality of this track conjures up a mist covered river and the beautiful horse enticing its victims to sit astride before plunging them to their fate. It really does send shivers down the spine. An equally sinister tone is set in the Pearlfishers, the slightly discordant tune and the Canntaireachd vocals do have a warning tone, completely suited to the childhood memory of illegal pearlfishers on which it is based.

Possibly my favourite tracks are Spey Cast, parts 1 and 2. A set of tunes, flowing from strathspey to jig to reel; the title is from the famous fly-fishing casts invented on the Spey. These are fantastic tunes, full of life and vitality, just like the river that has inspired them.

This is without doubt one of the most inspiring instrumental albums I have listened to for a long time. The fantastic variety of music that has come from the ever changing river that flows through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. If you haven't heard of Hamish Napier before this review, go out, buy the album because you're in for a treat.

Nicky Grant