Gig review: Breabach, Glasgow

Young Highland-rooted five-piece Breabach have come a mighty long way since first emerging as winners of a Danny Kyle Open Stage Award at Celtic Connections 2005 – not least literally, with consistent touring taking them as far afield as Australia, but primarily in terms of the steadily progressing musicianship and assiduous hard graft that have got them there.

Breabach - Oran Mor, Glasgow

* * * *

Their determination to keep stretching themselves and developing has become as much of a band signature as the twin Highland bagpipes wielded – along with flutes and whistles – by Calum MacCrimmon and James Duncan MacKenzie. It was in evidence again here, on the first night of a summer tour, in a set that featured a good few tracks from their forthcoming fourth album: a work evidently well in progress, barely a year after its predecessor, Bann, came out to glowing reviews.

Not content with two finely contrasting lead voices, for instance – Megan Henderson’s arrestingly clear, vibrant sweetness, in a selection of Gaelic songs, and Ewan Robertson’s warm, earthy urgency – MacCrimmon debuted a strong original ballad reflecting on his dual Canadian/Scottish heritage. On the instrumental front – completed by fiddle, guitar and double bass – Breabach remain firmly centred in their native traditions, but their treatments and configurations of tunes once again displayed all the artfulness, ambition and imagination that set them so decisively apart from the pack.