We had a brilliant time at the first Colonsay Folk Festival in September, 2008 and one of the bands we particularly enjoyed were Rallion, who play some great traditional Scottish music with their own unique contemporary twist.
The four piece band (Andrew Lyons, Fiddle Player, Marieke McBean, vocalist and bodhran, Fiona Cuthill, Fiddle Player plus 'a bit of whistle', and Stevie Lawrence, the newest member, who plays, guitar, bouzouki and 'more or less anything with strings') have been together since 2003. Eand member brings their own distinct musical influence to the tunes that they compose and play - sometimes with quite startling results:
"What we didn't expect was some groovesome jazz swing, inventive originals and a few Scandinavian melodies added to the already accomplished mix" David Kushar. Spiral Earth
Rallion's double fiddle sound is their trademark and their performances are very rousing and uplifting They pride themselves in trying to perform traditional material a little bit differently using ideas from many genres of music. All of the band are huge music fans and their pleasure in the music shines through in their performance. They also have been heard to say that they enjoy heckling from the audience, and try their best to make each gig a good laugh as well as playing great music. Their sets are characteristically lively and even have some rather risque and humourous 'Night Visitor' songs (about gentlemen calling on ladies to shelter from the rain) but also included are some very beautiful melodies and airs.
They are very friendly and approachable people and at Colonsay we got the chance to chat to various members of the band and hear about their experiences including the gigs they played this year in Canada and Italy. They've certainly had a very busy Summer 2008, travelling to Jersey and playing a host of festivals incluiding Colonsay, Innerleithen and Stonehaven. They are now making some exciting plans for 2009 when they hope to spread their wings - and their sounds - even further. We'll certainly be watching out for them.
Rallion's singer is Dutch born, Marieke McBean, who has married a Scot and now lives near Loch Tay, in a house she and her husband bult themselves. She moved to Scotland because of her love of traditional singing styles, and has immersed herself in this since she arrived and now manages to sing so perfectly that many audiences do not even realise she is not Scottish.
Marieke trained in classical singing in The Netherlands now her powerful vocal and driving bodhran are a huge part of the Rallion sound. She has many years invovlement in the Edinburgh Folk Scene and it was through sessions in the capital that she met Andrew Lyons, one of the fiddle players in the band and also plays mandola and cittern. Like Marieke Andrew has many years experience leading sessions.
He is an extremely flexible player with the ability to accompany pretty much any song or make up ad hoc harmonies to any tune with ease. Despite starting his musical career in classical orchestras, Andrew, who is orginially from Lancashire, fell in love with the Scottish style of playing and moved to Edinburgh. His musical experience is vast and wide - he's toured Holland and Belgium playing traditional music and, just for some contrast, he's led symphony orchestras. Andrew is a prolific composer of his own tunes and invariably some of these are included in the Rallion set list.
Stevie Lawrence, who hails from Glasgow's West End, joined the band in Summer, 2005. He started off playing electric guitar with rock bands and performed with Iron Horse, releasing albums and touring the world. He has recorded with various bands and worked as both a musician and producer. He is still in high demand for his multi-instrumental skills and his name pops up in association with The Red Hot Chilli Pipers and The Duncan McCrone Band, among others. It has been said that almost every folk album released in Scotland today has his name on it somewhere. With Rallion Stevie mainly plays guitar and bouzouki, however, the rythms and chords exhibit his love of rock music adding an exciting flair to Rallion's distinctive sound.
Stevie enjoys the fact that "Rallion is very much a band and works to a strong band ethic." He explains that the music is based round arrangements and textures and how close attention is paid to these when new material is being developed with consideration as to "where it will sit in a live set" and suitability for recording or release.
Another Westender, Fiona Cuthill, the other Fiddler in Rallion shares Stevie's passion for rock music and describes herself as: "a proud rock and heavy metal fan." Fiona and Steve have known each other for many years and worked together on various music projects. She feels that with Rallion the pair have: "an ideal outlet to let rip and pretend they are in a rock band, albeit with acoustic instruments!"
You can tell from her performance that she has a great time on stage and she contributes a lot to the craic. Apart from playing fiddle, Fiona also plays a bit of whistle and the recorder. She is another classically trained musician, who realised that a traditional style of playing was more suited to her lively personality. Fiona has played with many ceilidh bands all over the UK and she also keeps herself busy teaching at Glasgow Fiddle Workshop. Apart from Rallion, Fiona has played in bands such as Canterach and Real Time and over the last 10 years she has been much in demand, working on many albums as a session musician. She also composes many of her own tunes which have made their way into the Rallion repertoire - one of my favourites is the tune she wrote for her Grandmother.
"Any head banging, heavy metal musician would envy the driving, chest thumping beat this group can pound out of their traditional instruments. Clapping and foot stomping was irresistible every time they played. They rock!" - Cambridge Now - August 2008.Jay Moore
Marieke is pregnant at the moment so she is having a break from the band and plans to be back in action (with a new fan in tow) by Summer 2009. In the meantime Wendy Wetherby, the well-known cellist and singer, will be appearing with Rallion.
Rallion have released one album so far on the Big Sky label, "For No-One and Everyone" and their second album will be released mid-2009.
Pat Byrne, October, 2008.