Norman Mackay- Button Accordion & Jaws Harp
Ross Kennedy - Guitar & Bouzouki
Greg Lawson - Violin & Mandolin
Phil Alexander- Piano
Donald Shaw - Piano
Mike Vass - Fiddle
Carrie Thomas - Fiddle
Ruairidh Macmillan - Fiddle
Emma Pethybridge - Violin
Charlotte Roberts - Violin
Aby Vulliamy - Viola
Sonia Cromarty - Cello
Rod Paul - Banjo & Mandolin
Douglas Millar - Piano
Richard Werner - Percussion
Angus Mclachlan - Bodhran
Lorne MacDougall - Low Whistle
William Pickvance - Pipe Organ
Park Lane studios, Glasgow
Trad House studios, Glasgow
B&B Studios, Leith
The Reid Hall, Edinburgh
Produced by Ross Kennedy
(The Living Tradition)
A prodigious talent, this button box player from Cawdor has become well known in Edinburgh and beyond. Brash and eclectic, Norman's playing combines the drive of Scottish accordion music with the flow and variations of the continental style. The Perfect Squeeze starts with the monster Klezmer jig The Montreal Fiddler, all semitones and swirling rhythms, helped by a couple of friends from the band Moishe's Bagel. Two top-speed twisted reels follow, as Rod Paul tries to keep up on banjo, and so far this debut CD is 100% Norman's own compositions. Lord Haddow's Favourite slows the pace, straight off an early Battlefield LP, paired with the march Mr MacFarlane, which is another Mackay original. The Leaving of Paris is mainstream continental accordion music, stunningly played. It's track 5 before we really hear the standard Scottish repertoire on Kenny Gillies. Then Norman's off again into Norwegian airs, Gordon Duncan showpieces, a Cunningham-style slow number and a twang-filled barndance, before a set of reels and a Skinner air bring us to another continental showpiece in Valerie's Waltz. Twelve tracks of very varied music: the final down-tempo organ arrangement of The Montreal Fiddler is pure over-indulgence.
The Perfect Squeeze is a fifty-minute roller-coaster ride, never dull and certainly not predictable. Norman includes eight of his own distinctive melodies, including one dedicated to his fiddler friend Carrie Thomas. One of Carrie's compositions is also featured here, as are tunes by Donald Shaw, J-P Cormier and Allan Henderson. There's a bit of percussion, quite a lot of fiddle, and a few other touches, but it's really all about the box. This is an album for serious accordion enthusiasts, and for those who like their music served hot and rich with plenty of gravy. There's a bit of everything, not unlike a good curry, and occasionally some of it slides off the plate. If you're looking for full flavour and you don't mind the occasional splatter, this could be the perfect CD for you. It's not something you'd manage every day, though. Give it a whirl at www.normanmackay.com and see how much you can keep down.
Alex Monaghan (The Living Tradition)
Froots review: issue 298
Norman Mackay The Perfect Squeeze (Cawdor CAWCD001)
Classy debut album from button accordionist/ composer, features tunes from Scotland, Norway, France and Canada, with sumptuously varied accompaniment on cello, violins, piano, bouzouki, mandolin, guitar and pipe organ. A-list support includes Donald Shaw, Greg Lawson and Phil Alexander. www.normanmackay.com
Musicians Union spring: 2008
This formidable button accordionist from Nairnshire has energy, talent and musical depth to spare as these dozen cuts attest. Hugely fun and boasting a rare freshness. Recommended ww.normanmackay.com
Review, April 2008 Issue of the Box & Fiddle
The Perfect Squeeze
When you listen to this CD you will be astounded to know that it is Norman Mackay’s debut recording and what an impressive album it is. Hopefully this is only the beginning of this extremely talented accordionists recording career. Norman Mackay who is originally from Cawdor in the East Highlands of Scotland has been playing the three row accordion since early childhood. He comes from a musical background steeped in the Scottish tradition and has button accordion players and fiddlers on both sides of his family. Norman now lives in Edinburgh and performs regularly with The Ceilidh Experience Band which he formed in 2002.
The thirteen track CD features eight original compositions and performances by some of Scotland’s finest musicians including Ross Kennedy, guitar and bouzouki, Donald Shaw, of Capercaillie fame, on piano, Ruairidh Macmillan, fiddle, Sonia Cromarty, cello, Greg Lawson and Phil Alexander, violin, mandolin, piano and pipe organist William Pickvance. The thirteen tracks on the album were produced by Ross Kennedy and recorded at The Trad House and Park Lane Studios Glasgow & in B&B studios Edinburgh with the exception of The Montreal Fiddler reprise which was recorded at the Reid Hall in Edinburgh.
The album begins in rousing fashion with the jig The Montreal Fiddler which was written by Norman himself. This tune very much sets the standard for the remainder of the album and instantly show cases Norman’s outstanding musical ability and dexterity. Track two called Highland Hippie Reels features two tunes which again were composed by Norman. The first, Highland Hippie was written for John MacKenzie one of Norman’s musical pals and the second tune, Achnatone Farm, is the first tune Norman wrote and his named after the farm in Nairnshire where he grew up.
The third set on the album features two tunes, the first is an old Scottish Air called Lord Haddow’s Favourite which was composed by William Marshall. This tune was a favourite of Neil Gow. The second tune, Mr MacFarlane of Skye, is a 4/4 march which Norman wrote for fellow accordion player Archie MacFarlane from Edinbane in Skye. Track four, The Leaving of Paris, is a fine musette waltz superbly played by Norman and is one of my favourite tracks on the album. Shut your eyes when listening to this set and you can almost imagine you are sitting outside a café in the city of romance.
The fifth track is a set of jigs with the title Kenny Gillies Jigs. This set is made up of three tunes which would be typical of the kind of material you would hear in a pub or at folk clubs.
Norwegian Tune, track six, is a traditional tune from Gudbrandsdalen in the eastern part of Norway. This tune is beautiful and very evocative. The arrangement is top class and greatly enhanced by the addition of string quartet. The album is well worth buying on the basis of this track alone.
Pressed for Time is the title of the first tune on track seven. This tune was written by Scottish piping genius, the late, and much missed, Gordon Duncan. The second tune, Tammy Sullivan’s was composed by J.P. Cormier, a superb musician and songwriter from the beautiful island of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia.
Tracks eight and nine are tunes that Norman wrote for friends. The first is The Wedding Tune and the second is Elizabeth’s Tune, both very pleasing to the ear and highly entertaining. The next track on the album is The Carrie Set made up of five tunes. This track will definitely get your feet tapping.
Dargai, the eleventh track on the album, was composed by J.S. Skinner and is a pibroch style air. This tune was written to commemorate the famous heights in India taken by the Gordon Highlanders in 1897.
It is fitting that the final two tracks on the album come again from the pen of Norman. The penultimate track features Valerie’s Waltz, a tune that Norman wrote in 2000 for his friend Valerie Martin who lives in the Charentes region of France. The final track is a reprise of The Montreal Fiddler which was recorded, as I mentioned earlier, at the Reid Hall in Edinburgh.
This is not a traditional Scottish dance band album, and as such, isn’t one for the pure dance band enthusiast. It is however, an excellent contemporary album with a superb mix of material professionally played and executed to an extremely high standard by Norman Mackay whom I’m sure we have not heard the last of.
Box & Fiddle Magazine