Vol.I Highland Livingroom

Nae Plans Volume 1 coverLINER NOTES: Vol. I – The Highland Livingroom

The concept was to record an album that was strictly unrehearsed. Adam and Hamish barred any discussion between themselves about what tunes they would play or how they would arrange them). The material ranges from traditional songs and tunes, to contemporary numbers, to their own compositions and improv. The recordings capture the duos raw creativity and demonstrates their outstanding musical intuition.

Beautifully recorded by acclaimed engineer Barry ‘Spad’ Reid, this field-recording consists entirely of first-takes: nae edits, nae overdubs, nae plans, harking back to an older way of recording folk music in the spirit of folklorists such as Alan Lomax. The two folkies draw their inspiration from other musical styles present in their lives, and freely express this. Chaos, raw energy, outrageous risk-taking, delight, joy, aching poignancy and humour – all in abundance in a series of enthralling performances captured in a wee Highland cottage in the depths of winter.

Hamish and Adam enlisted the help of artist and multimedia-maestro Somhairle Macdonald to film the process. The ‘folk’umentary made its debut at the album launch. The teaser trailer is below and you can now watch the full video on the website (see Home page).




Musicians usually include liner notes on their studio albums, primarily to indicate that they took time and effort to carefully consider what tracks to include….

…er…no such reasoning here…

….since due to the nature of the project, there was absolutely no consideration whatsoever for a well-balanced flow of moods and feels from track to track!  But this is by no means a bad thing, it’s just real, that’s all. This album is in essence a session. It captures a jam between two musicians that have played together regularly in folk sessions in Glasgow on-and-off between 1999 and the present day. Nae rehearsals, nae cares, Nae Plans.

#1 – “Ready to Go!”
Hamish asks Spad (the engineer) if he’s ready to press record! Off we go for two solid days of recording!…

#2 – “Take Your Partners!”
1) Ali’s Waltz [Phil Cunningham]
2) Midnight on the Water [Luke Thomasson]
3) Margaret’s Waltz [Pat Shuldham Shaw]
Welcome to our first rehearsal, and indeed final performance, of three classic waltzes. This was the first complete take we got.

#3 – Rabbie Luvs Jean 4eva
A’ the Airts [Robert Burns]
This is a beautiful song, and one Robert Burns’ most famous. Of all the directions (‘Airts’) the wind can blow, Burns loved the west, because it is where is love Jean Armour lived. Hamish first heard it sung by the late Davie Steele when he came to run music workshops with Scottish folk supergroup ‘Ceol Beg’ at Grantown Grammar School in the late nineties. Hamish discovered the words “Rabbie Luvs Jean 4eva” graffittied on the wall of the boys toilets a week after Ceol Beg’s visit to the school!

#4 – Marnie, Manus & the Mouse
1) Marnie Swanson of the Grey Coast [Andy Thorburn]
2) Manus Lunny’s Terracotta Plower Pop [Phil Cunningham]
3) Mouse in the Kitchen [Colin Farrell]
The duo originally attempted to record Andy Thorburn’s modern classic air on its own, and so the decision to add three jigs onto the end must have been pondered over for a split second! The duo agreed in hindsight that this was very much in the spirit of the project. You can hear a photograph being taken by Somhairle at 4:49 into the track – everyone just decided to leave it in for the craic.

Andy Thorburn is a huge mentor to both Adam and Hamish, and they would like to express their gratitude for his musical wisdom, constant philosophising, vast theoretical knowledge, encouragement and friendship. Thank you Admiral, this track is dedicated to you.

#5 – For Our Dear Mothers
Belle Mere’s Waltz [Phil Cunningham].
This is one of Hamish’s mother’s favourite Phil tunes, written for his mother-in-law. Adam and Hamish dedicate this track to their mothers.

#6 – Røros Pols
Røros Pols – Swedish trad.
A beautiful traditional Norwegian tune that Adam learned from Edinburgh folkies Ewan MacPherson and Amy Geddess. The tune is currently a huge hit on the Glasgow folk session scene. More info on the dance associated with this name here.

 #7 – Not a Dry Eye in the House
Miss Jameson’s Favourite [Charles Grant]
Who was her favourite? What was her favourite?…

Charles Grant (1810-92) was a Fiddler-Composer from Knockando (only a a few hours paddle down the River Spey from Speybridge, Grantown-on-Spey, where Nae Plans was recorded). Charles was a school teacher on Speyside for 30 years. He had been a student of Scottish fiddle legend William Marshall and played at his deathbed. The Marshall family gave him the Maestro’s fiddle in gratitude (1851). He is remembered as a very accomplished fiddler, and legend has it that he was a first class shot, as well as being mad keen on the fishing, possessing a sound knowledge of every pool on the Spey!  If his ‘Spey casting’ was as exceptional as his tune writing then its no wonder there are so few salmon left in the River Spey today!

Hamish’s father Peter can be heard thoroughly enjoying the music while sitting enjoying a glass of wine in the control room with Spad at the end of this track.

#8 – The Kohler Hornpipe (Disaster)
The Kohler Hornpipe [trad]
The original tune was published as an untitled hornpipe in Kohler’s Violin Repository (1881-1885), in the key of ‘C major’. Here we say Hamish put on the spot again, being forced to ‘busk it’ on yet another tune he has never heard before. This situation occurred many times during the recording. He sort of manages to get away with the first part of the Kohler Hornpipe here. The second part however is a different story…

#9 – Two of Phil’s Classics
1) Miss Rowan Davies [Phil Cunningham]
2) The Youngest Ancient Mariner [Phil Cunningham]
Adam and Hamish burst into a Phil Cunningham classic ‘Miss Rowan Davies’, written for his daughter, and end up pairing it with another Phil tune. Both epics. This features on the documentary, both as a full take, and as an outtake in which you hear cameraman Somhairle singing along!

#10 – Lousie
[Paul Siebel]
Thank you to Hamish’s brother Findlay for finding this great country song, a big favourite at family ceilidhs. Check out the awesome version on YouTube by the songwriter himself.

#11 – Miss Kirsteen Cumming’s Return to the Mainland
[Marie Louise Napier]
A gorgeous tune by Hamish’s mother, Marie-Louise, for her wee sister when she returned from many years from living in Ireland: ‘Miss Kirsteen Cumming’s Return to the Mainland’.  Adam had never heard this tune until five minutes before it was recorded. The tune was quickly taught by ear, and as with the rest of the CD, this is the one and only take. Hamish and Adam would like to dedicated this track to long suffering brothers and sisters!

#12 – Offensive Doctor Flute Pervert
[Hamish Napier]
There were only half a dozen tracks on the CD that had more than a single takes – usually done on separate days: this is the late night version! The weird piano noise at the start is Hamish dampening the exposed upright piano strings with his fingers as he presses the keys. The weird fiddle sound is Adam trying to get the scratchy single ‘pop’ sound that he eventually achieves with his final note. The tune was composed for Adam and Hamish’s dear friend Mr. Kevin O’Neill of Rutherglen (principal flautist with the Treacherous Orchestra), and was written with the flamboyant flute playing lunacy of Sir. Bo Jingham in mind (also a great friend of the duo).

#13 – North Atlantic Fiddle Convention
The Sweetness of Mary [Joan MacDonald Boes]
An Drochaid Chliùteach (The Famous Bridge) – Trad
Molly Rankin’s [John Morris Rankin]
The lads kick off with The Sweetness of Mary strathspey (although it is also played as a march sometimes). Cape Bretoner,  Joan MacDonald Boes was a pianist who grew up steeped in Scottish folk culture and traveled to America to study jazz piano – much like Hamish in fact! The mighty reel at the end was written by John Morris Rankin for his daughter, but the middle tune is an absolute tune-and-a-half, literally, due to it’s 3/2 meter (each bar is one-and-a-half times the size of that of a normal reel)!  The tune was reputedly written by a humorous Gael who was poking fun at some civil engineers who had made a mess building one of the causeways out to the East side of Benbecula in the 50’s. It was first recorded by Scottish pipe/flute legend Iain MacDonald, ‘The Whaler’, from Glen Uig. 

These tunes are absolutely classic ‘fiddle camp’ material. Just seemed to turn out that way. Adam and Hamish have sycophantically named this tune after a famous fiddle festival, in the hope that someday the festival might give them a gig!

This was one of the last sets recorded on the album before we cracked the cider open for the after-party, as you’ll hear at the end of the track!


A wee bit of background on the album…


Barry ‘Spad’ Reid

Spad_Beside Kit 2

A highly talented and experienced guitarist, both on electric and acoustic guitars, with over 14 years of gigging experience at festivals and venues all over the UK, Europe and the US. The list of bands include The ‘Treacherous Orchestra’, new electronic music band ‘Halcyon’, Lauren MacColl’s ‘The MacCollective’ and scottish folk fusion group ‘Croft No. Five’. As well as his band performances, Barry works on his solo music career under the name of ‘Spad’ and mixes organic/electronic textures and beats with Scottish instruments and vocals, to create his own new musical style that is already becoming very popular. As well as being a performing musician, Barry also spends much of his time as a recording engineer and producer and has recorded many albums with the top musicians of the Scottish music scene.


Somhairle Macdonald – The Father of Schm0.

JD father of schmoHewn from the rural expanse of An-Aird Invernesshire. Somhairle made his name in the Scottish Folk scene by being the Bass Fingers of ethno funk outfit CroftNoFive. Graphics were key to the Croft and this is where the schmO was steered after Somhairle suffered a quarter life crisis and the band monumentally collapsed. Still a big music fan, part-time music creator and one of Glasgow’s resident Drum belters Somhairle takes great pleasure in being involved with many musical projects on the folk scene and is heralded as Scotland’s premier album sleeve designer.


Here are our thoughts on the album:

Spad (engineer): “Working on the Nae Plans project was a breath of fresh air, an experience that was unlike other recordings I’ve done before. Natural music recorded at the moment of conception, free from the constrains of a plan. It could easily have been a ‘train wreck’ with such little planning. However, Hamish and Adam have years of experience playing together on the Scottish session scene and have honed in a great musical connection. Their vast knowledge of tunes, chords and arrangement come together to make a very entertaining duo. Lets hope there are many more recordings like this to come!”


Somhairlie (photographer/filmmaker/webdesigner):  “Nae Plans appeals to me greatly, it’s process is in my mind what good music is all about. Capturing magical moments of random, musical synergy which are simply impossible to recreate with sequencers and click tracks. My youth very much centred around jamming with my friends in garages, kitchens, front rooms, tents and camper vans. This is where a genuine, natural euphoria for music can be found. Locked in a groove with other human souls, your fingers will surprise you with unconscious and startling ability that could never be unlocked through conscious structured learning or practice. The relationship you have with other musicians and an ability to collectively tap into an unknown and mysterious reserve of talent , makes you feel like a time-traveller perfectly in tune with the space time continuum. ‘Nae Plans’ was very much in this ilk and warts and all, it’s a project of which I am very proud to have been part of. I trust that it will inspire and influence the folk music community to be a little less professional and seek out the wild and beautiful chaos that exists in music, to value personality, integrity and emotion over technical perfection and audiophile sterility.”


Adam (fiddler): “This project is an attempt to capture genuine moments of spontaneous creativity as and when they occur. This differs from the process used to produce many contemporary studio albums, where highly-rehearsed arrangements are often ‘tracked’ in a more clinical and methodical manner using click-tracks, guides, overdubs, editing software and auto-tuners, amongst other production and engineering techniques, to create as perfect a soundscape as possible. Indeed we were actually improvising arrangements themselves on the hoof, and we just left all the blooters in, which you can hear. The idea was to play just as we would at a party, or kitchen session – the traditional way. This is why we recorded eight hours of music – the pressure of trying to get a ‘take’ was off which meant that the space for fun and risk taking was there. You can hear us nearly falling of the tune, actually completely car-crashing, and dancing on the knife-edge between the two the rest of the time. We hope that you find this approach as exciting as we did. That’s the ethos of my Errogie Records label: edgy, unsafe, exciting, risky, but with the goal of discovering beautiful authentic music. And so, in the depths of snowy winter, we sat ourselves in the lovely environment of Hamish’s Grandma and Grandpa’s old house on the banks of the River Spey and recorded whatever the hell came into our heads. What an amazing experience… I feel really positive about the whole thing and that Hamish and myself have a real musical connection.”


Hamish (pianist/vocalist): After three long days in a confined space, recording over eight solid hours of piano and fiddle music with Adam Sutherland, I can quite confidently say that I really don’t feel like working with him ever again. Kidding! It was a great project: in which we play with the music as we go, and develop the music together. It’s made up entirely of undiscussed and improvised arrangements of our native folk music – plus a few contemporary tunes of our own or by our musical heroes: Phil & Aly, Andy T, Flook, amongst others…..Spad engineered Adam’s fiddle sound beautifully, and experimented with disassembling my Grandma’s old upright piano to get a sweet yet punchy sound from it……Somhairle also managed to get some classic shots of all the old-fashioned wee objects around Grandma Napier’s house, as well as creating an awesome documentary film for us. Grandma’s swirly carpet became an inspirational symbol of bad-taste throughout the recording, later forming the basis of all the web and album artwork…..There were a lot of outtakes which are also now available on the website! There are moments that make you go “oh no, that sounds wrong!”, or “wow that kind-of worked!” or just make you burst out laughing. You can hear where we are relaxed, where we don’t give a hoot about taste, technique or ‘getting it right’, because we are purely just enjoying ourselves. It went to places of passion, heartache, contemplation, introspection but most importantly of all, humour. It’s a highly-spirited jam session.”

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