The Pipes Are Calling

Once or twice per year, I get to go see this band.

English: Picture of Celtic Battle Music band A...

English: Picture of Celtic Battle Music band Albannach live at the Edinburgh Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time in 2006, I flew to Inverness, Scotland to visit my dear friend (and bridesman in my wedding last fall) Jordan. Jordan and I first met in 2004 when I relocated to Scotland for the summer, and he quickly became one of my best friends. One thing you ought to know about Jordan is that he slays in the kitchen. Man can cook. So it came as no surprise when I visited for Christmas of 2006 that Jordan would be hatching a plot for the feast of a lifetime.

We made meat pies. (I did the artwork.)

Find in this picture: Hairy Coo (cow), Nessie, Triquetra, Roses, and Holly.

We made HEAPS of biscuits.

If that’s not heaps of biscuits, I don’t know what is.

We made bread pudding.

Gargantuan berry bread pudding.

We made the schmanciest deviled eggs I’ve ever seen.

Deviled eggs….with………..shrimp? Pure decadence.

There was even roast beast with a delicious lattice of BACON.


Ha, and that’s not even counting the dessert.

Would you just LOOK at the Black Forest Cake and Tiramisu? All from scratch, all made with love. All made with my arm falling off from whipping the cream and mascarpone by hand.

Anyway. Wasn’t I talking about a band?

Right. The band.

Somewhere in all of this Christmas gluttony, I was sitting in the kitchen, probably nursing my numb right arm and cursing a whisk. And one of the New Zealanders who was staying in the hostel flicked on a CD.

Pahaha, CDs.

Now. I ought to preface this with the fact that I had previously spent hours on iTunes hoping in vain to find a Scottish tribal drumming band. Not the rat-a-tat-tat tattoo sorts of bands whose pipes can send you flying backward into a wall with the sheer force of wind pushed through the chanter — I wanted something visceral. Guttural. Alive.

And until that Kiwi hit the button, I had resigned myself to the idea that it didn’t exist.

Then I heard this.

(Fun fact: I am IN this video, shot at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in 2009. I’m to the right of the girl with black and pink hair — my friend Hannah.)

Amidst the gaiety of one of the best Christmases of my entire life, I got one of the best gifts of my existence. An introduction to the band Albannach.

The energy at their shows is something vibrant and electric. Just watch the crowd in the video. See how they respond. People of all ages, creeds, states of fitness and health (and sobriety). Albannach are a band that reach down into your gut and take hold of something ancient and primal.

And not only that, but they are genuine, top rate humans. I’ve met them on several occasions — though I’m sure they don’t really remember me — and I can say with all honesty that speaking with them is much less awkward than meeting band members usually is.

Back in 2008 when I first got to see them perform, I was fortunate enough to meet their dear friend David Ross, an historian and storyteller who believed that nothing is more important in preserving culture than protecting the stories of a people. Since then, David passed away. I will remember him as a patriot and a good man.

I have a cache of raw, unfiltered memories tied to this band.

So what am I doing today, gentle viewers? I’m off to the Annapolis Irish Festival to spend the day with Albannach and make some more.

If you like what you saw in the video, check out their website where they have an EP free to download as well as their other phenomenal albums.

All I know is this: Albannach are the first band in my memory that I can pinpoint the exact moment I first heard them. I can smell the air in the kitchen, roasting lamb coupled with cinnamon and gingerbread and cut with the crisp cool breeze from the Moray Firth.

I hope you’ll check them out.

What music has had a drastic effect on your life? How have you been touched by your heritage? 


About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on July 14, 2012, in Scotland, Scottish Culture and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Lucky you, Emmie! I hope you had an awesome day and a chance to talk with the band again … and I hope they know what a fine fan you are. That video is awesome … but I still couldn’t find you! And the Christmas feast … U.N.B.E.L.I.E.V.A.B.L.E! What wonderful memories!

  2. I’m hoping to see Albannach in Estes in September. They come every year, and each year I plan to go. Perhaps I’ll make it this time.

  3. HECK YES. O my freak, I am SOOOOOO iTuning these guys ASAP.

    Seriously. I just sat here and watched that video straight through 3 times, end to end.

    I think I am in love.

    • This blog post = worth it. Just for the tone of your comment. Start with their first album and just work your way through. Also, grab the free EP from their website. 🙂

  4. Wow! This is the first time I’d heard of this group, but they’re fantastic. Definitely calls for more research. I’ve been fascinated with Japanese drumming ever since I saw them in one of the “Highlander” movies, but the Scottisch drums – and bagpipes, of course – certainly do speak to my Scottish heritage. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Great post! You’re not kidding when you say your friend “slays” in the kitchen. Yum!! I want an invite to his house. 🙂 And loved the drumming video. I’ve been to the MD Renaissance Festival before and it is load of fun. BTW, I saw you’re from the DC area. Me too. Ever been to the drum circle at Meridian Hill Park on Sundays? I used to live a block from there and went every weekend. Fav thing to do in the city. 🙂

    • I had no idea there was such a thing as that drum circle! I will have to look into it. 🙂 I live a bit north of DC, but I could probably make it down some Sunday.

  6. I don’t just want to see the band play, I want to DO that drumming thing. It made my hands itch to watch them.
    Oh, and I also want to make a roast beef with bacon lattice & have a serving of that monster bread pudding!
    Awesome post, Emmie…

    • That was actually a venison roast — delicious!

      I actually bought a bodhran after I first saw Albannach. I would love to get a bass drum as well, but I imagine the setups they have to play them as they do cost a bit of pretty cash.

      Albannach are phenomenal people. Top notch. Their vocalist, Jacquie, took my info on Saturday to give to a friend of hers in publishing regarding Shrike. She’d no sooner heard about my book before offering her help. I can’t imagine a better group of people, and that their music is phenomenal is just a gorgeous bonus.

      • I looked on their website and the closest they get to Seattle is Pleasanton, CA (or something like that). Was hoping for something a little closer…and my fingers are crossed that the book connection pays off…

      • Thanks! I don’t much expect it to, but Jacquie was lovely to offer anyway. 🙂 I can’t wait to see them again at the MD Renn Fest in October. And then again in North Carolina. Because YAY.

        I don’t think they’ve ever made it out to the Pacific NW — I remember a year or two ago when they played the Estes Park Celtic Festival in Colorado, and at the time I think that was the farthest west they had gone. Pass on their awesomeness to the rest of Seattle! If they get enough of a demand, they will likely head that way. They even went to Alaska this year. 🙂

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