Lockdown closed the pubs and venues of the Edinburgh live music scene and the music community is unable to gather to play for now. However, a small group of Edinburgh musicians, who have played every Monday at Sandy Bell’s pub for over 20 years, have released an album that captures some of the spirit of the live music scene and commemorates the memory of band member and concertina player Robert Chalmers who died suddenly in October 2019.
Robert was a well-known and energetic unofficial convener of a wider community of musicians in Edinburgh and beyond, always up for a tune and keen to make sure everyone who wanted to play was included. For the band, this turn of their lives amidst conditions of lockdown gave them the time and dedication to make their long-held notion of an album a reality.
The band “Cauldstane Slap” play traditional and original Irish and Scots reels and jigs, slow airs and waltzes. Based on a mix of home recordings, pub sessions and a concert performance from 2010, the album pleases both ears and feet, readily transporting the listener back to the pub and the ceilidh.
The title “St Kilda Son” refers to Stonehouse-born Robert’s heritage. His grandmother, Christina McQueen was among those evacuated from St Kilda 90 years ago. Robert always felt a strong connection with the island and its extraordinary history. Beautiful original illustrations of the St Kilda landscape by the artist Lizzie Farey, Robert’s sister-in-law, and a recently found concertina solo track and poem “Broughton Street” by Robert bring added poignancy to the album.
Robert’s wife, Rachel Farey, said: “when Robert died so suddenly, the music stopped; he played his concertina night and day in the house, so it almost felt like another death. I was anxious to find some live recordings of him playing but didn’t know where to look. You can imagine my delight when his friends rescued these old recordings and created something so alive and present. The tunes take you on a journey, not just to the warm and familiar live tunes played at Sandy Bell’s but to the very heart of Scotland’s traditional music scene, inhabited by Robert and his fellow musicians.”
Detailed notes on the tunes and stories of the musical life of the band accompany the 12 tracks, which include favourites familiar to pub regulars and fans of traditional music. The album can be downloaded from Bandcamp, with proceeds going to Amnesty International.
The band can be contacted through https://www.facebook.com/cauldstaneslap/