Live Reviews / Band Articles
Click on the titles below to see the full review:
Folkforum.nl - January 2010 (Dutch)
Schotse band Rallion
overtuigt Sevenumse Fookhook
- Mirjam Adriaans
Lismore Community Website - November 2009
Argyll News - 30 September 2009
Rallion rally the faithful at Strachur
A full house always creates a good atmosphere and there is no doubt that the audience at Strachur Memorial Hall were well inclined to enjoy themselves at last weekend’s concert. But however willing the audience, it takes musicians of skill and character to build on the potential for a truly great evening.
Residents, and the masses of visitors, were extraordinarily lucky with the first act. The harp is a classic instrument in the traditional music repertoire, and just beginning a revival here, although we are told it is massively popular on the mainland of Europe.. However it is quite rare in the UK to see it as a solo instrument, or in a duo of unaccompanied harpists.
The moment Tristan Le Govic (pictured top left) and Ailie Robertson plucked their first notes, it was clear that the audience were in for something special. They quickly established a a relaxed and appreciative atmosphere in the audience. With Tristan’s virtuosity on the Breton harp, combined with appealing stories and song in Breton and French, it is no surprise that he is in demand at Festivals, has composed music for the cinema, and has won major competitions internationally.
Ailie is also no stranger to competition. No clarsach player has ever won the BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year Award, but she was a rare clarsach finalist. Picking up five Mod gold medals along the way of her short career, she shows just how versatile the instrument can be. Her warmth, touch and subtlety shine through on stage. This duo made a wonderful exploration of the music of two different, but interlinked, cultures, creating a rich tapestry of traditional tunes, woven with new compositions. Their performance delighted everyone present.
With such an opening, could the next act keep up the standard? Rallion have roots in different parts of Scotland and different genres of music, with the international touch of a Dutch-born singer. Yet they have blended this into an individual, highly recognisable and distinctive style. The audience’s hands and feet responded to their joie de vivre and driving rhythms. The atmosphere (often the most difficult thing to explain to someone who is not present) was like having your best friends on stage, giving it some welly – and all especially for you.
On stage Rallion are clearly a band who are in love with performance, and their enthusiasm and humour is infectious. They are a strong unit – too often modern bands go on tour with varied line ups (a growing tendency I dislike). Rallion are a team where none of the component parts or players can be dispensed with. Their unique sound is based around the double fiddle powerhouse of Fiona Cuthill and Andrew Lyons, the punch on guitar and bouzouki of Iron Horse’s Steve Lawrence, and with Marieke McBean, on bodhran and guitar, adding strong, distinctive vocals.
Marieke was born in The Netherlands, and is a classically trained singer, but moved to Scotland because of her love of traditional Scottish music. So the mix of the Netherlands, Brittany and Scotland made these artists ideal for one of Fiddle Folk’s ‘Hands Across the Seas’ concert series.
Rallion played a number of sets from their new CD, One for Sorrow, which they launched in Argyll at this concert. An exciting album featuring a mix of traditional songs from across the folk spectrum and remarkably fresh original tunes composed by members of the band, including a wonderfully melodic slow air, Waiting for Don, by Fiona Cuthill. Going by the queues at the CD desk, the audience were clearly keen on all the visiting musicians output!
The concert was put on as part of a collaborative cross-arts event between Lochgoilhead Fiddle Workshop/Fiddle Folk and Cowal Open Studios, and was supported by the Scottish Arts Council. On this occasion Western Ferries kindly helped out with extra financial help, enabling the community and tourists to have such a good night out..
Most of all, the audience’s reaction proved the importance of enabling rural communities to access top quality live music. As one member of the audience said at the end: ‘I have never had as fantastic an evening …the feeling of the community and being part of something was far better than any big concert or festival I have attended.’
We had a brilliant time at the first Colonsay Folk Festival in September, 2008 and one of the bands we particularly enjoyed were Rallion, who play some great traditional Scottish music with their own unique contemporary twist.
The four piece band (Andrew Lyons, Fiddle Player, Marieke McBean, vocalist and bodhran, Fiona Cuthill, Fiddle Player plus 'a bit of whistle', and Stevie Lawrence, the newest member, who plays, guitar, bouzouki and 'more or less anything with strings') have been together since 2003. Eand member brings their own distinct musical influence to the tunes that they compose and play - sometimes with quite startling results:
"What we didn't expect was some groovesome jazz swing, inventive originals and a few Scandinavian melodies added to the already accomplished mix" David Kushar. Spiral Earth
Rallion's double fiddle sound is their trademark and their performances are very rousing and uplifting They pride themselves in trying to perform traditional material a little bit differently using ideas from many genres of music. All of the band are huge music fans and their pleasure in the music shines through in their performance. They also have been heard to say that they enjoy heckling from the audience, and try their best to make each gig a good laugh as well as playing great music. Their sets are characteristically lively and even have some rather risque and humourous 'Night Visitor' songs (about gentlemen calling on ladies to shelter from the rain) but also included are some very beautiful melodies and airs.
They are very friendly and approachable people and at Colonsay we got the chance to chat to various members of the band and hear about their experiences including the gigs they played this year in Canada and Italy. They've certainly had a very busy Summer 2008, travelling to Jersey and playing a host of festivals incluiding Colonsay, Innerleithen and Stonehaven. They are now making some exciting plans for 2009 when they hope to spread their wings - and their sounds - even further. We'll certainly be watching out for them.
The Band Members
Rallion's singer is Dutch born, Marieke McBean, who has married a Scot and now lives near Loch Tay, in a house she and her husband bult themselves. She moved to Scotland because of her love of traditional singing styles, and has immersed herself in this since she arrived and now manages to sing so perfectly that many audiences do not even realise she is not Scottish.
Marieke trained in classical singing in The Netherlands now her powerful vocal and driving bodhran are a huge part of the Rallion sound. She has many years invovlement in the Edinburgh Folk Scene and it was through sessions in the capital that she met Andrew Lyons, one of the fiddle players in the band and also plays mandola and cittern. Like Marieke Andrew has many years experience leading sessions.
He is an extremely flexible player with the ability to accompany pretty much any song or make up ad hoc harmonies to any tune with ease. Despite starting his musical career in classical orchestras, Andrew, who is orginially from Lancashire, fell in love with the Scottish style of playing and moved to Edinburgh. His musical experience is vast and wide - he's toured Holland and Belgium playing traditional music and, just for some contrast, he's led symphony orchestras. Andrew is a prolific composer of his own tunes and invariably some of these are included in the Rallion set list.
Stevie Lawrence, who hails from Glasgow's West End, joined the band in Summer, 2005. He started off playing electric guitar with rock bands and performed with Iron Horse, releasing albums and touring the world. He has recorded with various bands and worked as both a musician and producer. He is still in high demand for his multi-instrumental skills and his name pops up in association with The Red Hot Chilli Pipers and The Duncan McCrone Band, among others. It has been said that almost every folk album released in Scotland today has his name on it somewhere. With Rallion Stevie mainly plays guitar and bouzouki, however, the rythms and chords exhibit his love of rock music adding an exciting flair to Rallion's distinctive sound.
Stevie enjoys the fact that "Rallion is very much a band and works to a strong band ethic." He explains that the music is based round arrangements and textures and how close attention is paid to these when new material is being developed with consideration as to "where it will sit in a live set" and suitability for recording or release.
Another Westender, Fiona Cuthill, the other Fiddler in Rallion shares Stevie's passion for rock music and describes herself as: "a proud rock and heavy metal fan." Fiona and Steve have known each other for many years and worked together on various music projects. She feels that with Rallion the pair have: "an ideal outlet to let rip and pretend they are in a rock band, albeit with acoustic instruments!"
You can tell from her performance that she has a great time on stage and she contributes a lot to the craic. Apart from playing fiddle, Fiona also plays a bit of whistle and the recorder. She is another classically trained musician, who realised that a traditional style of playing was more suited to her lively personality. Fiona has played with many ceilidh bands all over the UK and she also keeps herself busy teaching at Glasgow Fiddle Workshop. Apart from Rallion, Fiona has played in bands such as Canterach and Real Time and over the last 10 years she has been much in demand, working on many albums as a session musician. She also composes many of her own tunes which have made their way into the Rallion repertoire - one of my favourites is the tune she wrote for her Grandmother.
Marieke is pregnant at the moment so she is having a break from the band and plans to be back in action (with a new fan in tow) by Summer 2009. In the meantime Wendy Wetherby, the well-known cellist and singer, will be appearing with Rallion.
Rallion have released one album so far on the Big Sky label, "For No-One and Everyone" and their second album will be released mid-2009.
"Rallion - Spectacular Contemporary Folk from Scotland
Rallion are a stunningly versatile traditional folk group, hailing from Edinburgh and Glasgow. The current line-up is Marieke McBean (vocals, bodhran, djembe, guitar), Stevie Lawrence (guitar, bouzouki), Andrew Lyons (fiddle, cittern) and Fiona Cuthill (fiddle, whistles, recorder). They have been playing together since early 2003 and their debut 'For No One And Everyone' is available now.
We certainly admired their performance at the Isle of Colonsay festival recently, as you'll see from our review - Rallion were a different proposition altogether with some serious express train trad riffing being powered by guitar, fiddle and bodhran. When bouzouki, whistle and vocals were added into the mix, we could hear a bonafide Scottish band covering ground from across the folk spectrum. What we didn't expect was some groovesome jazz swing, inventive originals and a few Scandinavian melodies added to the already accomplished mix.
We'll be covering the
group's activities in the future as well as their solo projects. In the
meantime they do have a forthcoming date. 6 Nov 2008 Nitten Folk Club
AtSign 8pm, The Dean Tavern, Newtongrange
Read the article at Spiral Earth, online here
This was said about our performances at the Mill Race Folk Festival in Cambridge, Canada:
Read his full article here
"Any head banging, heavy metal musician would envy the driving, chest thumping beat this group can pound out of their traditional instruments. Clapping and foot stomping was irresistible every time they played. They rock!" - Jay Moore
Read his full article about the folk festival here