Duncan Lyall – Milestone: Album Review

Musician / Producer / Composer Duncan Lyall wears all his hats on his new solo album

Release date: 9th July 2021

Label: Red Deer Records

Format: CD / digital

Milestone is Duncan Lyall’s first solo outing since 2013’s Intimate Reflections. Not that he’s ever idle you understand. We’re well aware of Duncan’s CV through his commitment and passion for traditional and vibrant Scottish folk music, a host of cross genre collaborations and the outrageous OTT piracy of the marvellous (and sometimes a little scary) Treacherous Orchestra. However, you can’t be spending all your time jumping around in a skeleton suit. There’s been some high profile work with Mark Knopfler and Mary Chapin Carpenter to crow about.

So how does the ‘hunky bass player’ as he’s been described during the band introductions when he accompanies the Barnsley Nightingale, Kate Rusby, fare when it comes to doing his solo thing? Comissioned by Celtic Connections and supported by that the wonderful Creative Scotland who get behind so many of their artists, Milestone has already had had high profile thumbs up from that well-respected source of music critique, The Financial Times. Oh and PROG magazine too, possibly helped by the presence of that most prog of instruments the Moog. Of course, we’re only jealous because we don’t have their readership…

Nonetheless, it’s that Moog keyboard sound that’s made such a significant impact on the Rusby sound palette. The standard Lyall rubbery double basslines have evolved into ambient music of the spheres paticularly when combined with Damian O’Kane’s shimmering electric tenor guitar. Perhaps we’re wtnessing a small step on the path to becoming the next Rick Wakeman…? With that thought shelved, don’t be fooled into thinking that the traditional has been abandodned, Judas style, for the pleasures of the dark side.

You’ll find the fiddles of Patsy Reid and Lori Watson and Jarlath Henderson’s whistles and Uilleann pipes keep the sound rooted in the Scottish influence. The comforting warmth of Wind In The Trees cofirms we have some familar ground. However, the presence of field recordings – that very wind in that very tree outside his Glasgow tenement flat – and the merging of the acoustic and electric take Milestone into another dimension.

Add the impact of his time with the ‘Punk-Folk mayhem’ in Croft No.Five, emerging with the bubbling synth (or is it a sequencer? – it all sounds very Pete townsend-y) lines in the lively Barnacarry Bay where the electronica-dance boundaries are breached. Maybe time to think about breaking out the lava lamps and incense sticks, the psychedelic lights and velvet loon pants. Not for long though as we ‘re treated to a vibrant finale where the fiddle and whistles come together in a glorious union.

Twa Corbies is a wonderful example of how a traditional song gets treated (literally) to a bold new arrangement. A smattering of rhythms tap in and out along with a few Space Rock whooshes and whizzes, topped off with a tune that whirls with electronic fervour. Typical of a record where a seamless shift from cool jazzy textures to free flowing fiddle lines, chillout textures (for family pets)and hidden funky basslines are all part of the experience. And yes, I’m in agreement that I’d love to hear Z given a ripping and unabandoned Treacherous treatment.

We should add credit to for the imagination given to the recording and production. Inevitably, the strong presence of the rhythm parts and the bass gives a sonic depth and given a reproduction on a decent sytem would probably have the ribs shaking in the way those bass pedals used to do.

It’s no wonder Duncan has described his sound as ‘cinematicfolkelectronicarockfunk’. Let’s add the psychedelic and dance aspects which also surely deserve a namecheck, coming to the party big time during Titan. What the influences and outcomes would would look like as a Venn diagram… A tremendous set of imaginative and ambitious pieces that leap out of the box.

Here’s Titan, the closing track from Milestone:

Duncan Lyall online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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