‘Super group’ delivers in exceptional style

Session A9 playing at Mareel on Tuesday night. Photo: Dave Donaldson
Session A9 playing at Mareel on Tuesday night. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Scottish “super group” Session A9 hit Mareel on Tuesday night as part of their 2015 Scottish Tour – and they were exceptional.

The group, who have been held up as “the best band to come out of Scotland in 100 years” comprises what can only be described as seven of Scotland’s finest musicians – including Shetland’s own Kevin Henderson.

As the crowd gathered it was obvious the group had a keen following and, boy, did they live up to expectations?

After being eased in with a subtle first set, they quickened the pace with a set of reels that got feet tapping.

The bright and exciting sound was clearly what everybody had been waiting for and with an explosive finish the musicians proved they weren’t going to disappoint.

Among the fast-paced fiery sets were some stunning vocals from guitarist Mark Clement. Notable were These Days written by a young Jackson Brown, which had the audience thoroughly captured from the start and Wells for Zoe which alongside the stunning harmonies on fiddle also included some fine audience participation in the chorus.

One of my personal highlights was the captivating Sleeping Tune written by Gordon Duncan for his son. It opened with a flawless solo from Henderson who was then joined by the remaining fiddles and the arrangement built from there.

The tune later featured a guitar solo which was equally engaging. While entirely entranced along with rest of the audience at this point I thought to myself, “the boys can play me to sleep any night with this dreamy number!”

The first “spasm” was nicely rounded off with a set of wedding polkas, which featured some delightful layering of the fiddles. The set gathered pace throughout and left the audience full of anticipation for the second half.

It was here that the audience were given a special offer on CDs: “If you buy the CD and don’t like it, send it back and we’ll send you a CD we don’t like.”

Next up was another of Gordon Duncan’s tunes The Belly Dancer which came with a disclaimer – “clap along if you dare”. I can say without doubt that this was definitely not your average pipe tune.

But the dynamic and almost Arabian-sounding arrangement of the tune went down a storm.

Tim Edey’s Celtic Thunder and Duncan’s Pressed for Time made for a fast-paced and energetic set. I think it was clear by this time that the boys were having as much fun on stage as we were in the audience. Sitting still was proving to be near impossible.

After some comical scorrie impressions on fiddle the audience was given yet another treat for the ears in the form of a very emotive slow air, The Birds Have Gone. The harmonies here were as captivating as the melody itself.

It was pretty clear I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want it all to come to an end. And after much foot stomping and cheering the boys returned to give a very fitting “one for the road”.

That ended what was a truly brilliant night of music.

Exceptional musicianship and great banter – I quite frankly can’t think of a better way to spend a Tuesday night.

Session A9 were on fire.

Aimee Barclay


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