Saturday, August 18, 2007

who needs english? - peatbog faeries

well, seeing as i'm in scotland, what better time to do a post on such a quintessentially scottish band? sure, belle & sebastian nail the glaswegian moroseness very well, but you don't see them clad in kilts, do you? well, if you are lucky enough to see peatbog faeries in concert, you will. hailing from the isle of skye, the largest of the hebrides, peatbog faeries are one of the most popular contemporary celtic bands around. their website boasts of tours as far away as borneo and botswana, and to america, australia, and the rest of europe, and they habitually make the rounds at scottish festivals every year, like their appearance at the the hebridean celtic festival earlier this summer. scottish born and bred, the faeries have honed their sound over five albums, insistently assimilating trance, house, and drum n' bass elements into their scots sound. fronted by peter morrison, their piper and primary songwriter, the faeries defy tradition with the inclusion of the wayward boys (saxophone and trombone), and new inductee greame stafford on keyboards, all while manufacturing unmistakably celtic jams.

while the faeries take their heritage very seriously (morrison and bassist innes hutton both usually wear kilts during shows, and the few words they sing are in gaelic), their music is what has been christened "celtic fusion," the organic blending of indigenous international sounds with the traditional scottish one. almost exclusively instrumental, peatbog faeries rely on morrison and fiddler adam sutherland to create brisk melodies that the rest of the band flesh out into ceilidh tunes for the post-rave generation.

the faeries' sound has matured since their first record, 1996's mellowosity, which was dominated by looser jams, thick organ, and more of a folk sound, a genre they have noticeably strayed from. faerie stories, their second release, brought them a small measure of success and european recognition, with good reason - it remains their best album. faerie stories was a major turning point for the band, with its unprecedented reliance on a synthesizer, and a much more upbeat sound overall, which causes toes to tap about thirty seconds into its opening song, "martin roachfords / the oyster womans rant." released five years after their debut, faerie stories became the blueprint for the current peatbog sound, rejecting the pub session feel for articulated production and a denser overall composition. 2003's welcome to dun vegas (the faeries are a bunch of jokers: peter morrison lives in the town of dunvegan on the isle of skye) re-trod the steps faerie stories had taken, slimming the songs down to their dancingest essentials, showcasing a band happy and confident with their sound. on 2005's croftwork (didn't i tell you they were jokers?), the faeries made the decision to add a new layer to their sound - the wayward boys, sax and trombone, who had played with acts as diverse as sir elton john and kylie minogue. despite this, croftwork was a disappointing album with some of the faeries' best songs - it was the other eight tracks that left a listener wanting. the title track was heavier than anything peatbog faeries had written previously, and it quickly became a live fan favorite, along with "scots on the rocks" and "the anthropologist." perhaps signifying their own discomfort with the album, the faeries played only three or four songs from it, even for the croftwork tour. now, in 2007, they have just released their fifth album, what men deserve to lose (on their very own peatbog label), purported to be their danciest release yet. i haven't heard it, so i'm not one to judge, but, as their last three releases have proved, peatbog faeries are happy with their sound, and it's doubtful it has changed since.

i've had the good fortune to see peatbog faeries three times, each of which was well satisfying and loads of fun. they have a few upcoming gigs, two in england, one at the glasgow proms, and some random dates throughout the rest of the year, including what will no doubt be a bitching new years' eve in inverness.

peatbog faeries - "the folk police" from faerie stories and "croftwork" from croftwork

buy all the peatbog faeries merchandise your heart desires here.

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