Folk London – Album review
“The Inventor is, in short a virtuosic performance that eschews fireworks in favour of craft, the various musical worlds it inhabits – Scottish, European, folk and classical – combining in a cohesive musical statement which, while seeking less to dazzle than to seduce, often succeeds in doing both”
The Living Tradition – Album review – Feb 2020
“For sheer spaciousness and atmosphere, we are in the territory of The Gloaming, and there are few more fulsome compliments than that”.
NORMAN MACKAY – The Inventor
Private Label CAWCD002
A full album of largely unfamiliar Scots accordion-led tunes might sound a little too much of agood thing for some, but this is quality stuff. Mackay, originally from the Highlands but now based in Glasgow, has surrounded himself with exceptional musicians. If the squeezebox generally takes the lead, there is plenty of room for other members of the team to shine. Sometimes he uses a conventional string quartet line-up, elsewhere he employs other configurations, including generous helpings of fiddle and violin. Interestingly, to me at any rate, he draws a distinction between the two. No matter, he and his troop create a gloriously varied soundscape. For sheer spaciousness and atmosphere, we are in the territory of The Gloaming, and there are few more fulsome compliments than that.
The title track is fittingly strong, whilst Monachil Waltz is one of a number of tracks to use trumpet, in this case to conjure up a distinctly Spanish vibe. Another add-on worth a mention is the double bass playing of Duncan Lyall. It’s a rich mix, never more so than when the ensemble plunges headlong into Disco’s Inferno – reminiscent of early Sharon Shannon. It’s all very, well, for want of a better word, inventive. Take, for instance, Gellatly’s March, where the strings and things are joined by Lorne MacDougall on bagpipes and the Edinburgh Singers Choir.
This review appeared in Issue 132 of The Living Tradition magazine
Box & Fiddle – Album Review
Artree Folk & Roots Magazine– Album review
” Truly a versatile master of the accordion and a stunning composer, Mackay has brought to life an indescribable beauty with The Inventor which has to be heard to be believed.”
Norman Mackay is living proof that someone can turn any instrument into the life and soul of the party. The accordion is traditionally considered as a supporting instrument but in Mackay’s hands it becomes something so much more. As a musician, composer and furniture maker, Mackay is a man of considerable artistic talents and a variety of outlets with which he can utilise them. His most recent foray bore the result of his latest album The Inventor.
The Inventor has a sparse white cover that gives little to nothing of what is held within away. Unless you have come across his work before, you wouldn’t have even the slightest of inklings as to what treasure tracks you might find hiding in such a sleeve. This sparse introduction is actually strikingly similar to his work itself which centres around the rich and lulling tones of the accordion, merely peppering the rest of the track with a rich heritage of sound as he utilises some of Scotland’s best traditional musicians to lend a hand. Everything from brass to percussion comes into play throughout the length of The Inventor but does so in such a subtle and unassuming nature that the main drive of the accordion is never once overlooked.
What is so striking with Mackay’s work is that not only does he draw the prime focus on the understated instrument that is the accordion but he also draws things out of the instrument that you might find surprising. The album is a heady collection of melodies that flutters between Eastern European influenced waltz numbers, classical orchestral scores and jaunty nautical numbers that wouldn’t look out of place on a pirate ship cresting the waves. Such a sunny disposition and glorious amount of imagery is summoned by such a small and humble instrument, but this mere fact is simply proof that it is the person holding it that retains that power. Mackay is a man who takes you on a wondrous journey around the globe, through dances and thunderstorms, with a rich and evocative imagery and he does it all without ever uttering a word.
This level of craftsmanship within music is a rare gift, the ability to tell a tale without words. It all sits within the delicate balances that Mackay creates wherein his whimsical and jovial melodies saunter and dance around you, making your head swim with a chorus of beautifully rendered tunes that can lull you to sleep or rouse you to dance depending on his mood at the time of playing. Truly a versatile master of the accordion and a stunning composer, Mackay has brought to life an indescribable beauty with The Inventor which has to be heard to be believed.
Review by Joe Knipe
Review from – www.canardfolk.be
Liverpool Sound and Vision – Album Review – 21st Dec 2019
Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 8.5/10
Necessity may have a hand in the creation, but it is to the dreamer who deserves the accolade of being thought of as The Inventor, the creator of the moment which can turn a heart, which can give a person hope. To dream is to discover, to act upon it is to acknowledge imagination as a driving force to which we, as a species, can implement absolute, and positive change.
The Inventor though must surround themselves with a best team, with the souls of those who see the vision and run with the endless possibility themselves. For Norman Mackay, The Inventor is also a magician, one who weaves a tale in which others take their mark and cast a spell of high regard over the original compositions led by the accordion and the nature of the unspoken promise, one that is confidently delivered throughout Mr. Mackay’s eclectic and pulsating album.
The listener cannot but help feel as if they have replaced Dorothy as she stares in wonder at the veiled curtain that hides the greatest of secrets that a nation can possess; however, unlike Dorothy as she is greeted by the sight of subterfuge and trickery, this inventor holds firm on the promise. With the aid of musicians such as Feargus Heatherington on violin and viola, Phil Alexander on piano, Claire Campbell on fiddle and the enormity of spirit provided by The Edinburgh Singers Choir – Conducted by Alistair Digges, the music is assured to take you on a journey far beyond the grounding Earth.
Across such compositions as Missy Of The Mhor, Mackenzie’s Cottage, Carly’s Trip To Ecclefechan, Lord Anselm/Disco’s Inferno, The Coach House, Gellatly’s March and the stunning beauty that resides in the piano solo of the album’s final track, The Inventor, Norman Mackay’s vision is one to applaud, the assurance of how time views dedication and the sweat of ingenuity, how it encourages, boosts and inspires. In the end, The Inventor stands aloft, holding Dorothy’s hand and showing the listener that all is possible when imagination is allowed to sing from the same hymn sheet as beautiful arrangement and order.
An album that charms the senses without making the listener feel as if they have wandered into an impossible place. The Inventor reassures and emboldens the spirit.
Norman Mackay’s The Inventor is out now.
Ian D. Hall
The Metro – 19th Nov 2019
folkworld.de – Album Review – Nov 2019
Norman Mackay “The Inventor”
Own Label, 2019
We all know what happened to the famous Thane of Cawdor. Well, here’s another Nairnshire lad who’s on track to be crowned Scotland’s button accordion king. This second “solo” album is all Norman’s own compositions. Although the button box fronts almost every track, it is joined by a pantheon of Scottish and other musicians: Megan Henderson, Kristan Harvey, Claire Campbell, Greg Lawson and Jani Lang on violins, Su-a Lee on cello, Duncan Lyall on bass, Jack Badcock on guitars, Lorne MacDougall on pipes and Toby Shippey on trumpet are the ones I recognise, but there are many more. Phil Alexander takes a piano solo on the final track, a reprise of the opening title piece, a waltz in the French style with scope for feeling as well as fancy fingerwork. There are a lot of waltzes on The Inventor, at least six, all different, from the unmistakably Scottish Mackenzie Cottage to the sultry Latin Monachil Waltz which belongs in a pirate film about burning another king’s Spanish mane and suchlike.
The Inventor keeps to a moderate tempo, nothing too fast, but the music is intense and demanding at times. Gentle pieces like the haunting air Ian Mackay and the graceful Coach House are balanced by the insistent slow reel Carly’s Trip to Ecclefechan (a sort of Scottish Shangri-La without the health benefits, but with more tarts) and the musing Gellatly’s March which gets an injection of highland bagpipes over a choral canvas of Edinburgh singers. On the march Missy of the Mhor, Mackay’s arrangement builds from a simple accordion melody to include piano and trumpet lines, a string section, and multiple harmonies. This album reaches its energetic climax – peak heuch, you might say – on the improbably-named Disco’s Inferno, a modern contrapuntal jig approaching ceilidh speed, with added banjo and percussion. In general, though, this is not music for letting your hair down: keep it up, lift it right off your ears, and really listen to Norman Mackay’s music, a dozen exquisite melodies arranged and presented here with rare skill.
© Alex Monaghan
Northern Sky – Album Review
Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5
With a title like The Inventor, this interesting album couldn’t sound more like a Victorian novel if it was finished in worn hand tooled leather and gold leaf. The sleeve, off white, like the eponymous Beatles album, is deceptively simple, open the tasteful case to an evocative photo of Mackay’s hands and instrument alongside a quote. “The Earth has music for those who listen”. One run through and you know two things, one Santayana’s quote is right and two the album title is no jocular boast. The accordion is the hands of a master like Norman Mackay is such an evocative instrument, drifting between noir film soundtracks, eastern European cafe music and visceral Folk music. It is a credit to Norman and his assembled musicians that this genre defying shifting music, sometimes hits all of these reference points in one track.
The achingly atmospheric opening title track moves from rainy film soundtrack to buoyant fairground, with Cameron Jay’s trumpet a small string section and Phil Alexander’s piano helping tell an array of beautiful stories. “Missy of the Mhor” is a more folk setting for the same ingredients with Norman’s accordion managing to always bring colour and interest. “Walter’s Waltz for Ali” is nimble dance music for all, but it’s the glide of a mirrored ballroom not a frantic dance in a barn, there is beauty in the melody of Greg Lawson’s violin and Mackay’s accordion melody. Adam Bulley’s deft guitar accompanies Norman’s melody on Mackenzie Cottage, a tune for the musician’s parents. Su-a Lee’s Cello provides a stirring solo on this album that reveals delight after delight. “Carly’s Trip to Ecclefechan” is a piece of different moods, a choppy accordion intro, a hypnotic tune, an eldritch fiddle and a frolicking Miles muted trumpet. “Ian Mackay” is a straight ahead beautiful tune in memory of Norman’s father Ian. There is so much emotion carried in the strings and accordion. “Lord Anselm / Disco Inferno” had me at disco inferno. As you expect this a piece of two halves a pastoral duet between Jack Badcock’s guitar and the accordion, followed by a more rousing storm of a tune, the first percussion of the album driving the piece on. “Monachill Waltz” is a slow burn with a burst of colour from the strings and an emotional trumpet at the close. “Gellatly’s March”, written for Norman’s sisters wedding, manages a quietly stirring first section showcasing the strings and accordion, this builds to the bagpipes and finally a simply stunning climax by the Edinburgh Singers Choir. If that doesn’t make you sit up and listen, then you haven’t got a Soul. Phil Alexander closes the album, beautifully restating the title tune on a piano as lyrical as late period Brubeck. Simply beautiful.
Review at Northern Sky by Marc Higgins –https://northernskyreviews.com/…/norman-mackay-the-in…/amp/…
GOOD WOODWORKING FEATURE – (Issue 311)