Summer time and the weather is Dodgy!!!! Festivals n’ aw that!

Summers on its way……or has it been and gone? It’s hard to tell these days now that the climate has been completely destroyed. Not that climate change is a real thing. Ask yer man Trump!!

Anyway, on a more positive note. The games are about to begin. Gigging season’s kicking off, and there’s fun to be had. Right now I’m on a train with Ross and Jar, heading to Ely Folk Festival. I foresee manys a pint and a chortle. You can see from this photo that the craic is ramping up, and IT IS mighty!!

Next week I’ll be heading south again to Cheltenham festival, then Petworth festival for some Early music action with the Old Blind Dogs and L’Avventura London. I’ll be rocking a lute and bagpipe duet. Frilly’s on and all that.

And then, straight out to Tiree on the Sunday for a gig with the MIGHTY Gary Innes. Scotland’s only musician to have a serious athletic career. That’s a rare combo.

Then it goes haywire……..out to Montelago Festival with Ross, and TO. Cannae wait for this. It looks absolutely stunning. A Beautiful setting in the mountains. 

Then I leave straight after TO have blared our final note. On to a plane over to Wickham festival, and then Sidmouth festival with the beautiful, Duncan Chisholm band. This is one of life’s joys playing in this band. Duncs been one of my heros for years. His band, Wolfstone greatly inspired my career choice. I have you to blame Dunc!! Thank you!!

Then back on a plane the next day all the way to Lorient for the festival interceltique. It happens to be the year of Scotland this year so there will be a full on Scottish invasion. In the words of Ross Couper…..”what could possibly go wrong?”…..”What could possibly go right?” me thinks!!! 

Our first concert is the Gordon Duncan concert. This is a concert celebrating the man and his music. Gordon had such a big presence out in Lorient, attending the festival many times, and winning the MacAllan trophy twice. The concert includes a host of amazing musicians, Xose Manuel Tejedor, Bruce Macgregor, Herve la floch, Calum Stewart, and many more.

So, that’s the first burst of madness to hit us head on like a runaway train. I’ll keep yis posted as it all unravels……or as I unravel……ain o the twa!!!!

Stay classy!! Ali

Follow me over on Twatter…@AlihuttonPipes

Whit’s dain!!

Thought I’d post a wee ‘whit’s dain’ whilst a wait for the butternut squash and sweet potatoes to roast…………

As I lunge head on into a unique, and entirely rare 9 days off, I thought I’d remind myself, and inform yourselves of what’s been happening!! 9 days off in reality isn’t exactly that. I have no gigs, or no studio work to do. That, these days, justifies time off I guess. 

First off, I immensely enjoyed doing a wee gig with the Rura boys on the beautiful island of Jura. It was Jura Tastival 2017, the Jura whisky festival. Which didn’t turn out to be as messy as it could have. The tunes were banging (so was Marty the sound guy), the whisky cocktails were refreshing, and the meat feast dinner was incredible. Thanks again to the Rura lads, my heroes, for having me along whilst Steven was preparing for the wedding of a lifetime! Congratulations to Steven and Mikaela. I hope their day is lovely and memorable. You can check the guys out over on their website and also purchase their insanely produced album, Despite the Dark, here ……..

So, my 9 days off 😂😂😂😂😂, also includes writing at least 12 tune commisions. This is part of the Old Blind Dogs Pledge Campaign. The Pledge Campaign is how we helped fund the making of our recent album, Room With A View. Which is out to buy now. You can get this from our website…..

I don’t know how much of these 9 days will actually involve some of the other stuff that life affords… leaving the house?!? Oh aye, I have a tattoo appointment during my holidays. I’ll be getting more of my sleeve done. Nothing like a bit of excruciating pain to cheer you up!!! Grrrrrreat!! I’ll post the bloody progress when I’m done.

I will manage to get out I hope. I’m eyeing up a few Munros and a couple of good days of cycling. Hopefully this will realign the turmoil, and insanity that’s been swirling in my brain. I highly recommend getting out into the hills. Especially as we have one of the most glorious countries beneath our feet. It does wonders for the head, and helps realign your thoughts. Much needed for many musicians. It’s a turbulent world we live in…….and also glorious. It has its moments. 

Well, I’ve spilled my thoughts. Enjoy the good weather. Get out, and feel good! Preserve your sanity!!! 🙃 Peace

Endorsement deal with Ashbury Instruments 

I recently partnered with the guys at Ashbury instruments. I’ve been playing the Tenor guitar as part of myself and Ross’ gig since the release of Symbiosis. It’s become an important weapon in my arsenal. I was first introduced to Ashbury Tenor guitars by Duncan lyall. He had one on loan from the mighty Damien o’ Kane. I remember playing it and falling in love with the sound immediately. The model was made from Sapele wood. It had a really rich, warm sound. The treble didn’t jump out. It was really smooth. Great for strumming and picking. I recorded Symbiosis with this model, and have been gigging it (courtesy of Andrea Gobbi) ever since.

 So I decided to approach Ashbury about an endorsement deal. The guys were very kind and agreed to partnering up. This was brilliant news. It’s really rewarding forming these relationships and promoting people’s instruments. If you believe in the product, it’s very beneficial to both parties. People ask about your instruments all the time at gigs. Why not point them in the direction of instrument makers that you’ve developed a relationship with?!? Adam, at Hobgoblin, advised me to go for the Lindisfarne model. It has a solid cedar top, and Koa back and sides. It also comes with a built in fishman pickup, which I’m yet to road test. It’s has a brighter sound than the Sapele model, but it’s just as lovely sounding. It projects the sound far better because of this more present top end. This increase in treble is obviously to do with the type of wood and finish. It’s a very beautiful sounding instrument. It looks stunning too! If you’re looking for a great sounding tenor guitar, for a reasonable price. I would highly recommended either of these models. 
Here’s a few pics………

A Beautiful Gift

I received this today from the bearded god, Gus Sicard!! It’s the drum score that he so kindly wrote to accompany my Grans tune. It’s a beautiful thing. It really means a lot to me that he took time to do this. You can hear him playing this on myself and Ross’ album, Symbiosis! Thanks man!!!

A Pipes…a follow up! 

So, as I re read my post on A Highland pipes, I realise it might have implied that there aren’t many good makers out there………this isn’t true. There are several great makers of all kinds of non conventional bagpipes. I’ve been very fortunate over the years to have had the support and friendship of a maker in particular, Nigel Richard. I have played Garvie border pipes for years now and still support Nigel. They have served me very well. He’s also someone that has been very kind, and patient throughout my development and growth as a musician. His bellows blown pipes are among the best. I’m very grateful for his friendship and support, and many emergency appointments along the way. Nigel is on a list of some very fine pipe makers. There are several makers now that make fine instruments to a very high standard. I believe the choice you make is based on taste, sound, and playability. You can rely on Garvie, Burgess, Moore and Macallum for instruments that perform at a professional level. They all make a wide range of bagpipes. My personal choice is to work with Garvie and Burgess bagpipes. I believe that they make instruments to suit my needs and specifications. They are also very interested on a personal level. 

So……….check these guys out. As I said, it really all boils down to what sounds good to your ear. All of these makers have a very distinct sound, and design.
Have a look and make your own mind up!!! 


Highland Pipes in the key of A by Burgess Bagpipes

My frustration with Border pipes is something that has developed over the last few years. I love the sound of borders, and their ability to consistently play chromatic notes, enabling for navigation round more complex music. The overall functionality, and practicality of borders are what drove me back on the hunt for A highland pipes. If you play more instruments than just pipes on a gig, you may find that there are logistical issues with borders that can be restricting. The problems I’ve been finding recently are the constant strapping, and unstrapping of bellows. This consumes a massive amount of time during a gig, and causes unnecessary distraction. Especially when going between instruments. If you don’t want to play whistle whilst remaining strapped to your bellows then you must build in time within the musical arrangements to allow for a smooth changeover. This can be detrimental to the shape, and dynamics of the music. I’ve also found recently that doing full gigs with bellows, in fact doing month long tours can be very tiring on the arm. This sometimes causing discomfort to my right hand. One of the other reasons I’ve moved away from using borders is that if anything goes wrong with them when you’re far from home, they’re not easy to pick up supplies for. The chanter reeds are not commonly found globally. It’s much easier to find highland bagpipe supplies most places these days, especially in the US and Canada (unless Trump takes a disliking to the pipes next). 

So, I decided to pursue the elusive A highland bagpipe. This isnt made by many bagpipe makers. It is however catching on at the moment because of the interest shown by pipers performing outwith pipe band, and competitive circles. There aren’t many companies making and developing these pipes. 

At last years piping live I met a father and son, Burgess and Scott, who were very new to the bagpipe making business. They are the loveliest of folk, and are very enthusiastic about the making and development of bagpipes. Their company name is Burgess Bagpipes. This is a two man, family run operation based in Forres. These guys are incredible. For such a new company, the quality of their instruments are of a very high standard. The build is quality, the look is unique, and the sound rivals any of the other top modern bagpipe makers. Their border pipes in particular sound amazing. Made from the finest Blackwood, with titanium mounts. The tuning is spot on, and fully chromatic. They have a very sweet, direct sound. Over the last year or so I’ve become pals with these guys. They’ve been very supportive of my career and I’m very grateful for that. They were very understanding when I moaned about my recent border pipe issues. I mentioned to them that I was very keen on getting A highlands but that there weren’t really many good solid builds out there. This is something that they had been thinking about for sometime also. So, they set to work, becoming intensely involved in the development of these pipes. Which when you run a company based on making instruments to order, this can be a bit of a distraction. But, definitely a distraction that is going to pay off! After several months of research and development, the guys have made a couple of sets. I travelled to Forres yesterday to pick them up for myself and Ross to try! I have to say, they are sounding great. The drones are steady, the chanter volume is well balanced against the drones, they have a nice highland pipe sound, without being too loud. There are a few tweaks here and there but watch this space. These are going to be a necessity for any piper who plays with other instruments. 

Here are a few pics from the visit…..