The Celtic Music Radio Album of the Week commencing Saturday 3 August is the debut CD from James Duncan Mackenzie, a talented musician from Back on the Isle of Lewis.
Ross Macfadyen talks to James about his music and growing up on Lewis and his career to date plus his debut album.
His musical interest started when he was eight years old, attending weekly chanter lessons in Barvas on the west side of Lewis with schools piping instructor Nick Gordon. James soon moved onto the Highland Bagpipe and received further tuition from Iain Morrison. He began competing at local competitions and also started performing publicly, giving short renditions at piping recitals and ceilidhs in Stornoway alongside some of the island’s finest gaelic singers and some of the top pipers from mainland Scotland.
Upon leaving school, James studied for an HNC in Traditional Music at the University of the Highlands and Islands, Benbecula College and lived in Carinish, North Uist for a year. In 2008, James moved from North Uist to Glasgow to Study at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama where he attained a first class BA (Hons) Scottish Music – Piping. During his first year of study in Glasgow, James became a finalist in the Young Traditional Musician of the Year competition.
Says James: “I’ve wanted to record a solo album for a few years now. I started speaking to some friends and other musicians who had undertaken recording projects of their own. Everybody I spoke to was very supportive giving information about how they had recorded and from that I had a better idea of the options I had to go about recording my own project. I wanted to record the album as live as possible to maintain a real life feel about the music with plenty of energy and push and pull within the tunes.
I was very fortunate to secure some Creative Scotland funding towards the end of 2012 to help towards the costs of creating the album. From the very early stages, I knew what instruments and musicians I wanted to guest on the album and had to organize the recording week in conjunction with everybody’s availability which wasn’t an easy task.
Like myself, many of the musicians guesting on the album are members of touring bands and one also lives in New York City in the USA, so there wasn’t much of a window for everybody to get together beforehand for rehearsals.
Nevertheless tunes were exchanged by emails and we all found a free week in April 2013 and descended on Chem19 recording studios in Blantyre, Lanarkshire.
The guest musicians on the album (package pictured left) are all fantastic players and good pals who I’ve been lucky to have played gigs and sessions with over the years. The mix of instrumentation was chosen to try and be as complimentary to the music as possible with all acoustic instruments used on the recordings.”
The musicians featured on the album are: James Duncan Mackenzie – Highland Bagpipe, wooden flutes, whistles; Matheu Watson – guitar; Sean Grey – guitar; Alasdair White – fiddle; Hamish Napier – piano, harmonium; Robert Nairn – three row button key accordion and James Lindsay – double bass.
Purchase the CD album here.
Album of the Week, Saturday 3 August 12 noon and 12 midnight and Monday 5 August 6.00pm with Ross Macfadyen.