TATTIE JAM Jam
Ruansey Records Ruan001
"Tattie Jam comprises Seylan Baxter and Ruaridh Pringle, joined here by the inventive percussive skills of Steve Forman for what is the debut release by the pairing which describes its music as “spiced up Scottish traditional.” Ms Baxter’s electric cello combined with Ruaridh’s various frets (and the oft-derided didgeridoo) plus vocals from both give a bravura swagger which joins the dots between Folk and syncopated swing in a manner that’s both energising and melodic.
The opening taut-but-loose jauntiness of Are Ye Sleeping Maggie is a strong statement of intent – it catches the ear immediately, and their choice of material is hard to fault, be it the crisp musicianship of the Bulgarian Molecule tune set or the malevolent anthem that is Earl Richard. Consistently imaginative with often inspired arrangements, this CD retains the interest and ‘the Jammers’ bring an innovative, often coltish vibe to their craft despite a simultaneous adherence to tradition.
The old adage about it ain’t what you do applies in spades here and in addition there are diverse originals from Ruaridh’s pen – the light and flip Different contrasting with Winch Away, which sheds an alternative light on the perceived wisdom regarding the decline in Scottish fish stocks.
Passion, integrity, stomping four on the floor rhythm - this album gives its all. The liner notes have wit and intelligence too; - this jam is 100% whole fruit and well worth a punt. I liked the cut of their jib so much, I booked ‘em!"
Clive Pownceby, The Living Tradition issue 87
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FOLK / TATTIE JAM * * * *
"Richly textured with crunchy harmony and unusual flavours, this is not M&S jam, it's home-made in Scotland by the unique pairing of cello, frets, and and the voices of Seylan Baxter and Ruaridh Pringle. A sense of humour underpins much of Pringle's writing - blackly in his new ballad The Doctor's Dochter, and whimsically in Different - but the pair can bring new colour to old gems such as The Birken Tree. Toe-tapping jigs are reeled out on banjo, mandolin, guitar and bass fiddle, and though cheekily Scottish, it doesn't care what the neighbours think."
Norman Chalmers, Scotland on Sunday
"From the name alone, Tattie Jam might be deduced to be either frivolous or fusionist, but although this Scottish duo incorporate elements of those traits they're embraced as entirely positive qualities that don't overstay their welcome.
Here we have two very accomplished instrumentalist-singers: well-respected cellist Seylan Baxter (who's also a member of Ken Campbell's Ideal Band and a collaborator with Alaskan harper Cheyenne Brown) and multi-instrumentalist Ruaridh Pringle (who plays guitar, tenor banjo, octave mandolin and didgeridoo). Each of them is intensely (but wholly naturally) capable of switching between lead and supporting roles during the course of a song or instrumental set, as the music demands, and their open-minded versatility enables them to maintain a constant freshness of approach that, though employing a necessary measure of thoughtful pre-arrangement, also retains a healthy degree of spontaneity and the all-important element of surprise for the listener within the unusual flavourings and often strange twists and turns of text and texture.
In this way, Tattie Jam always manage to tread the fine line, and maintain the all-important balance between the contrasting elements of their musical personalities, allowing each to percolate to the surface at the appropriate moments. Their respectful attitude to tradition is given due weight, while the slightly more facetious side of life is not neglected, being cheekily conveyed in a lively Scottish fashion. Entertainment value is high throughout the disc in fact, as is the level of invention in the musical arrangements. In the duo's takes on traditional ballads (Earl Richard and The Birken Tree), no stone is left unturned in their enthusiastic communication of the narratives, yet their responses are finely tuned and sensitive with it, and you never feel that they're selling their material short.
Ruaridh himself has had a direct involvement in the composition of seven of the disc's 13 tracks: four of the instrumental items (including the abundantly lyrical Arisaig 2: Forty and the sprightly Summer Shower jig) and three of the vocal items. The Doctor's Dochter has been clearly much inspired by traditional sources, whereas Ruaridh's remaining songs display a certain piscine preoccupation - the quirkily whimsical fish's-eye-view of Different ably complements Winch Away, a commentary-cum-shanty taking a skewed (and hitherto ignored) stance on the decline of the fishing industry.
But in all honesty I'd have to say that every single one of the disc's tracks has distinctive and commendable qualities all its own, right from the attention-grabbing (nay, arresting), spectrally bluesy album opening, the prelude to the duo's driving rendition of Robert Tannahill's Are Ye Sleepin', Maggie?, through to what for me is the standout cut, Hallowe'en, a bewitching acappella duet rendition of Jim Reid's setting of words by Angus poet Violet Jacob, which manages to be both chilling and tear-inducing: a strange effect which is eerily accentuated, albeit ever so gently, by the subliminal tolling of distant bells (for those who died as cattle in the first world war, one might say) – a stroke of genius methinks.
Lest it be thought I'm concentrating unduly on the duo's vocal prowess (both are excellent solo singers, with an unerring ability to harmonise with each other as a bonus), I must emphasise that their instrumental skills are also second to none. Seylan, playing a five-string electric instrument, coaxes with her determinedly syncopated bow-strokes some of the most attractively funky cello playing you're ever likely to encounter, balanced by an equally determined sensuous lyricality, while Ruaridh's sense of rhythm (whether on tenor banjo or guitar) is utterly infectious and balanced by an understated dexterity and sureness of purpose (hear how he negotiates the tricky contours of the Nine Pint Favourite set for instance).
One final point: the overall sound on this CD is a touch fuller than you'd encounter when seeing Tattie Jam perform live, for both musicians (and their colleague Steve Foreman) also creatively overdub some percussion to add rhythmic spice and fun to the proceedings; however, the effect is genuinely invigorating rather than unnecessarily gimmicky, and each of the participants has a keen ear for what and how much embellishment to usefully add. This vibrant duo certainly have a lot going for them, not the least a unmistakable sound, and they've produced what I can only describe as an outstandingly inspired debut CD, one which I'd not hesitate to class as undoubtedly one of the finest Scottish albums on the market at the moment. If you're looking for a seriously different angle on Scottish tradition with a contemporary slant, then Tattie Jam will fit your bill very well indeed."
David Kidman, Netrythms
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"Their voices are excellent and work together well. The arrangements occasionally surprise, no more so than on Earl Richard, a song combining their voices, the cello and, unexpectedly, didgeridoo to create an atmosphere redolent of the border reiving days. The whimsical Different runs through the reasons to be other than human, Winch Away is a song about the collapse of fish stocks of Scotland and The Birken Tree is an unusual love song with no murders and a happy ending. It is thoughtfully compiled, musically exciting and above all entertaining. Bet they're good live."
Iain Campbell, Taplas
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"Thoughtful, funny & serious and very entertaining. This is a quality piece of work. RECOMMENDED." All Celtic Music
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"This is an album to be savoured." The Scots Magazine
"Meanwhile, the Civic Square Stage was home to Tattie Jam, the new face of Scottish Traditional Music. Not only did composer/vocalist/guitarist Ruaridh Pringle and vocalist/cellist Seylan Baxter prove to be superb musicians, he cut a profile worthy of the title role in a Braveheart film while she revealed enough beauty to inspire the love poems of Robbie Burns."
Robert Reid, The Record (Ontario)
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"An outstanding performance of virtuoso musicianship, original compositions both vocal and instrumental, and great vocal harmonies..." Tarbat Crack
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"If you want to see some skilled vocal harmonies and traditional Scottish folk - Tattie Jam will deliver it with personality and talent." Three Weeks
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"You soon became very aware that Seylan Baxter and Ruaridh Pringle as Tattie Jam were no ordinary musicians. Two clearly accomplished artists, their demeanour relaxed, their style polished and honed to perfection..." Festival Previews
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"Thanks for your brilliant music. The net happiness of the audience was huge." "The best gig, musically, they'd heard in some time." Penicuik Folk Club
"Puristisch gingen sie zu Werk, bis auf ein kleines Mischpult war “goldenes Handwerk “ angesagt."
"Wenn Baxter ihre Stimme erhob, wurde es ruhig- majestätisch."
" …..schaffte sie es, angenehme Melancholie zu verbreiten." Main-Echo