Edinburgh Folk Club, Pleasance Cabaret Bar

Folk club concert. Reviewed in the Edinburgh Evening News by Martin Lenon 11 January 2007:

Binkies keep traditional flame alive

TRADITIONAL music might have become a dying form, if it weren’t for bands like the Whistlebinkies. Wherever possible, they play acoustically, using only authentic Scottish instruments, and last night, the always eclectic Edinburgh Folk Club played host to the bands’ first gig in the Pleasance Cabaret Bar in two years. .

Formed around 1967 under the name The Jacobites, they became the Whistlebinkies two years later. The line-up may have changed over the years, but their raison d’etre always remained constant: To play Celtic music without gimmicks.

Following an excellent set from Nick Keir from The McCalmans, The “Binkies” gathered onstage.

Normally an eight-piece group, fiddler Mark Hayward was, for most of the evening, absent. He arrived towards the end of the night to rejoin his bandmates, fresh from a stint in the orchestra playing for the Scottish Ballet.

The group opened in grand style with two songs, John Roy Stuart and Sandy’s New Chanter. With the range of instruments available, the possibilities for arrangements are almost limitless, and the second piece was led by outstanding Clarsach player Rhona MacKay, contrasted by the soulful bass of newer member Ian Crawford.

Stuart Eydmann, concertina player and occasional announcer recalled a previous gig in the venue in the 80s where, unlike last night, the weather was especially hot. So hot that, since the show was being recorded by STV, the heat was interfering with the cameras, so that joiners had to be brought in to remove the windows.

Later, the band played a tune called Farewell To Scily, a tune which had been borrowed by a songwriter on Barra to extol the virtues of the island and those surrounding it.

The first set finished with a fine pair of rousing jigs, Michael McDonald’s Jig and The Loch Ness Monster, but it wasn’t too long before the band were back with a great set of five tunes, concluding with The High Road To Linton, featuring solos from each of the frontline players.

The band have played all over the world and they invariably pick up tunes along the way. The Mountains Of Canigo was just such a piece, and it was an old Catalonian tune which fitted snuggly and comfortably into the mainly Scottish playlist.

Flautist Eddie McGuire is a composer of no mean stature, and they played a suite he composed for John McGrath’s play of the same name, The Albannach. Rich in texture and melody, it had a mournful beginning, but a rip-roaring pipe-led finish, full of hope and joy.

After the brilliantly named Barlinnie Highlanders and Captain Celtic, a hornpipe with more than a little nod to calypso lurking in the middle, the Binkies encored with The Whistlebinkies Reel, sending a happy audience home dancing.”