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Grantown musician Hamish Napier's new album The Woods launches at Celtic Connections this weekend – see our review of the gig next week!

By Margaret Chrystall

GRANTOWN musician Hamish Napier will launch his latest album The Woods on Sunday at Celtic Connections in Glasgow.

And though Hamish will be performing the tracks from the album as part of a 10-musician band, the full soundtrack cast – namely many native birds such as woodpeckers and capercaillie – may not join them in the flesh!

Authentic sounds – from ‘loch ice waves’ and the River Druie – are part of an experience where Hamish does his best to take his listeners deep into the world of the Cairngorms and the trees that grow there.

The Woods is part of a 10-year project and comes third, after earlier albums The River and The Railway. The Hill and The Sky will follow in the series initially inspired by the elements.

“I liked the idea I could do a portrait of my local area through these themes,” said Hamish.

But for this one, Hamish was commissioned to create music dedicated to our woodlands by Cairngorms Connect with their 200-year plan to enhance and restore habitats across the Cairngorms National Park. With funding too from the Endangered Landscapes Programme, the album also offers a treasure trove of information and stories reflecting lots of research by Hamish about trees, folklore, their biology and presence in the local area – alongside his atmospheric music.

The album also celebrates the Gaelic alphabet of trees, the tracks featuring all the area’s native trees, plus some shrubs.

The natural world’s influence continues on the commercial side too, as you can pre-order the album on the spring equinox, Hamish revealed.

The full release will come on the summer solstice. But in the run-up to that, he will put out a series of singles based on the alphabet of trees.

When talking to Seven Days about last year’s album, The Railway in 2019, Hamish requested help from readers with stories about trees for his new one.

They included one from a local builder’s family, the Laings.The grandparents of youngsters Hamish went to school with had first met when Hilda Laing had come from Glasgow to the Highlands in the Second World War to become a ‘lumberjill’ and work with the Women’s Timber Corps, which inspired Hamish to write The March of The Lumberjills.

And in line with using the authentic sounds of the landscape, Hamish’s tune has the sound of Hilda’s relative Willie Laing and his friend working a two-man cross-cut forestry saw!

Hamish enjoyed the research and is eloquent on trees: “I met local foresters and wildlife experts at the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) at Boat of Garten, I went on a tour, I met Basil Dunlop who is a forester and Pete Moore who works for SNH (Scottish Natural Heritage) – all so knowledgeable.

In the album notes, Hamish reveals he had immersed himself in the outdoors in the making of The Woods. Slow air The Hawthorn River came after spending time under “the big arch of the Old Spey Bridge”.

“It’s got a great echo there!” he laughed. “And the sound of the water makes a great drone which sets you into a trance. You get a ‘tune seed’ and it goes from there!”

Hamish Napier will launch The Woods at the Mitchell Theatre, Glasgow, today (Sunday, January 19) with Inverness-raised Sarah-Jane Summers opening the night. Details: www.celticconnections.com /www.hamishnapier.com

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