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Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton always look forward to Findhorn’s Universal Hall

By Margaret Chrystall

ALMOST a year on from their second album Symbiosis II, Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton return to play Findhorn’s Universal Hall on Wednesday.

“Findhorn is a great gig, always,” said Ross earlier this week. “We always look forward to that date on the tour as the audience is always so up for it straight away.”

The sound of the album’s tracks are infectious, so maybe it is not such a surprise that audiences might be blown away by hearing it live.

The first album Symbiosis was released in the summer of 2016 and was instantly voted a success by critics who pointed to the instinctive feel the two bring to the music.

And again, maybe it is not surprising, as they met when they were youngsters.

Ross said: “I started at eight but I didn’t seriously start learning the pipes until I was 11 or 12, when I met Gordon Duncan.”

The influential and innovative piper who played with Wolfstone among other line-ups made a big impact on the two youngsters.

Ross said. “I was more into football until I went to the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band, that’s where I met Ali. Gordon was the pipe major and that is when we kind of got into the music first. It was just hearing Gordon’s first album Just For Seamus and pipes with other instruments, hearing it with backing guitars and bouzoukis brought an exciting aspect to it.”

Having met at 12, the two went on to form their own band in their mid-teens – Subtle Measures, playing around Perth.

Ross talks you through their history: “We must have been about 15 and 16 and we’d go around Aberfeldy and a place in Stanley. There were two or three places we would play in Fife for years because in Perth there weren’t that many people playing traditional music.

“It was just the two of us. We’d end up doing a lot of jamming and learning together and then as we got older, Ali went down to Glasgow to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and I went a year later, but I only lasted a year. At that time I was doing more stuff with Jarlath Henderson, the Irish piper, and Ali used to play guitar with us.”

Over the years Ross and Ali have played in many leading Scottish bands including Old Blind Dogs, Salsa Celtica, with Dougie Maclean, Shooglenifty and Capercaillie.

But having got together to work on their own music a couple of years ago, united with their producer Andrea Gobbi, Ross and Ali followed up their debut album last spring with Symbiosis II and a slightly different approach.

Ross said: “The first album we just booked studio time and worked as we went. For the second, tunes seemed to have more of a band feel. We did it with a full band at Celtic Connections and it was brilliant, but we can’t tour it with so many people, the money is not feasible.”

On this date Paul Jennings is on drums with Jed Butterworth on guitar and vocals.

“I like working with other people, but – and I think Ali would say the same – with collaborations you need a bit of give and take, I suppose,” Ross said.

n The duo play the Universal Hall, Findhorn, on Wednesday, March 20 at 7.30pm. More info: www.universalhall.co.uk

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