Track By Track: Mairearad Green – “Summer Isles”

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track by track mairearad green summer isles

Summer Isles  Is Out Now.

Did you know that the name Mairearad means ‘pearl’? No, neither did I. Turns it it is a wonderfully apt name for Scottish singer songwriter Mairearad Green. Her plaintive, delicate, and yet strong guitar folk is as unique and rare as her name-sake.

Mairearad took a little time recently to take us through each of the songs on her new album, touching on Gaelic storytellers, working with King Creosote, and attempting to utilise the bagpipes in a tasteful manner!

Summer Isles

This album was inspired by The Summer Isles, a group of islands seen from where I grew up in Achiltibuie in the West Coast of Scotland. There is a wealth of culture, stories, scenic beauty and wildlife surrounding the Summer Isles providing plently material to write this album.

‘It’s as enchanting as the islands that inspired it and as full of riches as their history.’ Folk Radio UK

1. Island Folk

I thought this would be a good opener for the album as I feel it acts as a gentle introduction and good transition track from my previous solo album which is purely instrumental, to this album with more songs. This track was commissioned by Highland Seashore Biodiversity project to celebrate our beautiful Scottish coast line and I think of the title as the amazing sealife below the water and also the interesting folk living above water on the islands.

2. Star of Hope

Star of Hope is the name of a trading boat from Orkney that used to come to Tanera Mor. The local shop in Achiltibuie was started by a family from this boat and there are many other families settled in Achiltibuie now that came from this boat. After writing the song, I knew that it would suit a male voice better than mine and I couldn’t have hoped for a better singer to guest on this track than King Creosote. I should probably have asked him to do an accordion duet also! Perhaps for my next album ☺

3. The Island

During the early writing stages of this album my friend, artist and poet Jan Kilpatrick from Elphin sent me some of her poems from her writing courses on Tanera Mor. I love songs in waltz time and was delighted that these lyrics worked for that.

4. Red Throated Diver

The Summer Isles are known as a place of great beauty and wildlife so I had to dedicate a track to some of the regular visitors – Red Throated Divers and Oystercatchers. This instrumental track opens with a live recording of some birds from my trips to Tanera and Jo Nicolson’s clarinet playing sings over the top of the main piano theme.

5. A Tanera Talisman

This is my personal favourite track of the album. It is the best representation of the kind of music I enjoy listening, writing and performing most. The lyrics are again by the talented Jan Kipatrick and these combined with the piano lead, haunting vocals and bass and accordion swells are really evocative of the place. This writing has definitely been Sigur Ros inspired!

6. Grace Darling

My great great great uncle and poet, Neil Macleod wrote a Gaelic poem about the girl who rowed him and his brother to work as stone masons everyday from Ardmair to Isle Martin. The poem is in the book ‘Trowel in my Hand’ and I wrote this song inspired by the story of him falling for this girl from Ardmair who had no name but was referred to as Grace Darling. Hector McInnes who is a great singer and composer for Skye sings the lead vocal on this track.

7. Blessing on Tanera

This is another of Jan’s beautiful poems. I had actually written the melody for this a few months before but I had rather cheesy lyrics that really weren’t working so I’m glad I could use the melody with more sophisticated lyrics! I wanted this track to be quite hymnal and I think the layering of the accordion pads helps achieve this. There is a live recording of wind from my trips to the islands underneath the whole song hopefully reinforcing that island feel.

8. Seanchaidh

It is difficult to tastefully fit the Scottish bagpipes on an album that isn’t primarily about the pipes as they are not the most subtle of sounds! Thankfully my producer, Iain Hutchison is an amazing enineer and producer and I am really happy with how they fit in the context of this album.

Seanchaidh is Gaelic for storyteller and there are some great stories about the Summer Isles. This track was inspired by the story of one of the McCrimmon pipers from Skye working on Tanera getting his pipe bag sabotaged and despite this, he still won the piping competition.

9. Stone and Struggle

On one of my visits to Tanera I noticed some lovely poetry on the walls in the local café. The line Stone and Struggle prompted this song which tells a general history of Tanera.

Before writing the album I made a mix tape of all the music that I enjoy listening to. One of my favourite tracks of all time is Real Life by Joan as a Police Women. I was aiming for a similar piano sound to this on Stone and Struggle.

10. Home

This is the last track on the album and will probably be the last on the set list for live performances also. I have performed it a few times already and it is great having the audience join in on the choruses. Hector McInnes has the perfect low voice for this song and I was also glad to squeeze some more accordion bellow shakes onto the album!

Tour Dates!

15th Mar – The Apex, Bury St Edmonds
2nd Apr – Special album launch performance on Tanera Mor, The Summer Isles (Details coming soon!)
15th Apr – Downend Folk Club, Downend
23rd Apr – Finzean Hall, Finzean, Aberdeenshire
26th Apr – Perth Folk Club, Perth
28th Apr – The Barn, Baston

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