The Gordon Duncan Experience and Eabhal


Perth Concert Hall
Sunday 17th June 2018

Perth Youth Arts Festival was rounded off in great style with a feast of Trad music served up by the young musicians of The Gordon Duncan Experience supported by Eabhal, a foursome of wickedly talented young players, who demonstrated with flair that Celtic roots music is alive and thriving.

Eabhal, named after a hill of North Uist, from where the band draws its roots, are Megan MacDonald (Accordion), Jamie MacDonald (Fiddle), Nicky Kirk (Guitar) and Hamish Hepburn (Bagpipes, Flute and Whistles). The band were recent victors at the Hands up for Trad Battle of the Folk Bands 2018 . The set included traditional compositions and pieces penned by the band, demonstrative of an artistry and skills that belie their tender ages. ‘The MaSÌm’ was written by Jamie MacDonald for fiddler Simon Bradley of Asturian folk group Llan de Cubel, and with nods at Iberian rhythms, is echoic of that wider pool of Celtic music. Cadences of ferocious fiddle-work make a mesmerising piece to kick off a set with.

Eabhal were accompanied by the mellifluous vocals of Kaitlin Ross for some simply beautiful traditional Hebridean walking songs and mouth music. Kaitlin’s sweet and pure tones made ‘Aoidh Na Dean Cadal Idir’, a simple lullaby from North Uist, at once tender and wistful. The foursome have already released an eponymous EP and have been in the studio preparing a soon-to-be-released long player. If the sample tune performed, ‘Pangaea’, was a taste of what is to follow, then it should be a collection worth looking out for.

The second half of the evening showcased the fantastic young talents of The Gordon Duncan Experience. I remember hearing this youth Trad orchestra first play at the Gordon Duncan Memorial Concert in 2010. The band members may have changed a fair bit but the sheer enthusiasm of this ensemble is still as strong today, matched by some real talent too. The GDE started off with three sets from Duncan’s “The Circular Breath” album, under the masterful lead of Steven Blake. Superb piping was matched by equally skilled horns, woodwind and percussion to give a crisp, snapping rendition of Duncan’s intricate compositions. With ‘Clan meets Tribe’, the band dived into woo-woo ethno-trad mode. This must be what the skirl of bagpipes in a rainforest sounds like. The musicians clearly had as much pleasure performing as the audience had listening.

‘Pressed for Time/Earl of Seaforth’s Salute’ is one of those compositions that lies somewhere in the collective Scottish unconscious – play it and toes start involuntarily tapping out its maniacal rhythms. Given a big band treatment, it was still that instantly familiar yet totally novel little gem. I would humbly suggest that Gordon Duncan’s legacy is well cared for in the playing of talented young artists like The Experience, respectful of the traditional while having fun stepping to its sides. Horsecross Arts deserves praise too for the ongoing support it gives to this great project. There were hints of a further concert some time in the near future. How much better, when you are as good as this, is it possible to get?

Mark Mackenzie

No Quarter


Meadows Festival, Edinburgh
Saturday 02.06.2018


It was a humid tropical afternoon, the week had been one of character building proportions. Dance solves most problems so this was the one. Having been a fan of Ms Piltcher’s work for some time, have written about this brilliant Edinburgh band on more than one occasion. No Quarter are playing Eden Festival next weekend, I knew that this was the warm up for that. So was quite excited for this one. A band coming into a new strength, they take their name from a Led Zep song and Rebecca Pilcher certainly channels some of that Led Zep Grace in her guitar licks.


I was joined in the audience by Shoony Eh who is the amazing lead guitarist of the band Jamie and Shoony. I looked at him and looked at Miss Piltcher and said to Shoony, you are my fave Male rock ‘n’ roll guitarist and that lady on stage is my fave female Rock N Roll goddess guitarist. A light bulb went on. And No Quarter delivered a blistering funky hard rocking set of songs, which in an instant, brought the dancer out in me. Soul Songs of life’s challenges and how we recover from them. Beautifully sung and the lead guitar of this tight unit, bringing powerful flavours of funk-based Rock.



I got lost in it completely. The horn section of; on saxophone played by Adam Cook, on trumpet and supporting vocals Lesley Wilson infuse the funk; a rhythm section of; on bass guitar Liam Tucker, on drums Ian Robertson. On supporting guitar and vocals,  Oliver Wardle. These guys had us in their power. There was a light shower of rain while they played to cool down the humid boogie. But yes it was certainly the antidote to a challenging week. To have seen this band grow in confidence over the years, I know how well rehearsed the material is, No Quarter have never been anything other than a great Rock-Out. I was nae disappointed in the slightest. A truly exceptional performance. No Quarter are on the rise.

Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert