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Rhythmnreel talk about their new single Lonely Mountain Road in lockdown and the new faces in the line-up

By Margaret Chrystall

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EASTER Ross band Rhythmnreel brought out new single Lonely Mountain Road on Friday, featuring two new band members, the song written by the son of another.

And at a time when the frustrations of lockdown mean musicians have to put many of their plans for the year on hold – or cancel – it was great to catch up with Rhythmnreel to hear about their exciting news in a big group interview like the ones we used to have in the old days. Except this one had everyone on screen using favourite lockdown technology of the moment – Zoom, to bring us all together.

With Andy Murray and Mike Brown – originally from Dingwall – in Inverness, Davy and Sam Cowan in Invergordon, Debbie Ross in Alness and Scott Murray in Tain [Allan Hogg wasn't with us], there was a chance to find out the latest news from the band that has been an ever-evolvingfixture in the Highlands since 1993.

Rhythmnreel. Picure: Nicky Murray, Inverness
Rhythmnreel. Picure: Nicky Murray, Inverness

On their new single and video the Celtic rock band perform a heartfelt anthemic song which perfectly sums up one basic Highland dilemma – stay in the place you were born to be with someone you love or take the ‘lonely mountain road’ to chances down south.

The song has been written by Josh Mackenzie, better-known as the songwriter, guitarist and frontman of Inverness indie rockers.

Josh’s dad Andy Murray – who plays guitar and sings with Rhythmnreel – explained how Josh came to write the song.

Andy said: “At the beginning of the year we were all talking about writing more original material and I kind of half-jokingly said to Josh ‘Why don’t you write a song for Rhythmnreel?’ – because he does write in other styles.

“After he had written it, I listened to it and then let the rest of the guys hear it and we all just went ‘That’s a great song!’.”

The pull of home and away in the song strikes a chord with Davy Cowan.

He said: “That is how the song resonates with me.

“I know so many different people who have grown up and you see people moving on to the big opportunities down in the cities.

“But people in remote places – I’ve heard it so many times – people who have fallen in love and just stayed at home and never moved away from that.

“You don’t have to move away and chase things.”

Andy has experienced that pull of home and leaving for something new in his own career, when he had a decision to make about Wolfstone.

“I was actually in London in my mate, the bass player’s house, and I just came back up the road to go and see Steve Eaglesham and some of my mates before I moved down to London permanently.

“I actually walked into the Ardross Inn with Steve Eaglesham – and all the guys from Wolfstone were sitting there.

“Struan, Stuart’s brotheractually said jokingly ‘You don’t fancy being in a band, do you?’ .

“And I remember going to the river at Ardross and sitting and thinking ‘Do I want to live in London? or do I want to stay up here and be in a band?’

“And it was a no-brainer!’.”

Lonely Mountain Road is a song that even just one listen - and a look at the video featuring the Struie road and footage of the band at home and playing at Belladrum last year – makes you long to hear the song played live – particularly to see how the new line-up sounds.

The recording of the song – recorded by Steve Bull Productions at Glachbeg North Kessock – reveals the two recent additions to the band’s seven-strong line-up, songwriter and guitarist Davy Cowan and his son Sam on drums.

Davy is a long-time friend of the band and starred as singer alongside fiddle-player Debbie Ross in ’90s Easter Ross folk band Coinneach.

Later, Davy moved on to a successful solo career recording and touring throughout the UK and Europe.

Sam drums with his dad and has been featuring with him on their successful streamed Facebook gigs during lockdown. But Sam also drums with new Ross-shire band The Clampdown.

So how did they end up joining Rhythmnreel?

Fiddle-player Debbie Ross said: “I had been round at Davy’s house – he has been working on a solo album and I had been recording the fiddle parts."

Davy nips in to add mischievously: “She came to steal my drummer, basically that’s what happened!”

Debbie continued:“I just thought I would ask Davy on the off-chance and I was sure he was going to say no.

“We were just blethering away and I just kind ofsaid ‘You don’t fancy joining Rhythmnreel yourself -and Sam?’

“And he just stopped for a couple of seconds and went ‘Yeah, actually I do. That would be really good!’

“So I was quite taken by surprise. I didn’t think that was going to be the answer!”

Andy recalled that Davy’s name had already come up about songwriting.

“I think that truth be told the conversation we had at the beginning of the year about writing material, I remember saying that the sort of stuff we want to be doing ‘We need somebody like Davy Cowan,’ his stuff’s great’.

“But that wasn’t the question being asked at that point. Actually from my personal point of view, I’m a guitar player and I’m absolutely delighted that Davy is going to be the frontman. It lets me play guitar again.”

It gives the band the luxury of two voices.

“And to have two guitars as well,” Davy said. “We can do some Thin Lizzy guitars, Andy!”

The video for the single was filmed by Gordon Buchanan of Struie Media Productions who has edited it and added it to footage of the band members they took themselves remotely on their mobile phones, given the Covid-19 lockdown.

Mike said: “I had asked Gordy if he could get some footage – as it transpires – of the Struie road and he got some fantastic footage of that using his drone.

“He also had some footage of last year at Belladrum and then in addition to that, he came up with the idea of us recording individually on our mobile phones at home.

Davy added: “It was quite good because he managed to piece together footage of my band The Stormchasers who played at Belladrum last year just before the Rhythmreel set, so he had footage from both gigs and Debbie played with us as well, so he managed to get all that.”

Each member of the band has added their own footage filmedat home on their phones.

The single Lonely Mountain Road.
The single Lonely Mountain Road.

Debbie laughed: “My neighbour must be so sick of our song because I was playing it on my Bluetooth speaker on my decking while I was playing the flddle along with it. She must have known it inside out by the time I’d finished!”

Rhythmnreel are excited to unveil their line-up and get the single out there, though this year has altered their original plans.

Last year, there were the usual Rhythmnreel adventures as they travel to Europe regularly and have become a fixture for Hogmanay at the Ironworks in Inverness.

Bassist Mike said: “We had Germany in October time and we had a fantastic long weekend over there.

“We were in Switzerland in November, for another long weekend, which was fantastic.

“And we did the Ironworks on Hogmanay which is another cracking night. At least you can guarantee the weather in the Ironworks for Hogmanay!” he laughed.

Original plans to launch the new line-up and single in the run-up to appearing at The Gathering were postponed when the event was cancelled.

But despite the current situation, plans are still underway for a new album later in the year.

Mike said: “We’ve got some tunes in the bag and Davy’s got some great songs that we’ll be embarking on soon.”

Check out the video single which you can download on iTunes, Spotify etc and it is also available on YouTube. Details: www. rhythmnreel.co.uk

Take a look at the single Lonely Mountain Road here:

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