Thursday, November 20, 2014
Blowing Out the Eardrums: The Battlefield Band and "The Moleskin Kilt/The Empty Glen"
It was bout three or so years ago, maybe four, that we had an opportunity to have The Battlefield Band on our KUNM Global Music radio show. Megan and I didn't know what to expect. It was a last minute request by a concert promoter that we knew to bring them on the show - they were going to be playing a concert the following evening in Albuquerque. When they came in, probably about 10:15 pm, they looked like ordinary guys carrying instrument cases. We got them set up around the studio, and they sat at the mics with their instruments out. Megan interviewed them a little after throwing together some information about them. They were promoting their new album called Zama Zama: Try Your Luck. At some point they began playing, and that's when things got interesting. The bagpiper took out his pipes and began to warm them up, silently breathing into the mouthpiece. When they were ready to go, a drone started as he began to squeeze his bag and then they started, and he started really blowing. He had placed himself in the corner of the room, away from any mics, but the sound was deafening. If you've never been close to a set of bagpipes indoors, it's enough to blow the top of your head off when they really get going. Needless to say, Megan was trying to adjust the mic levels to come to a point where you could hear the guitar and the fiddle and the other instruments over the bagpipes, and to keep the levels at a decent place without going too hot and causing the mics to cut out. It was a pretty amazing evening. At another point, they played The Auchengeich Disaster, a song that I find extremely haunting. No bagpipes in that, but fiddle and a haunting voice. I won't easily forget that evening.
The Battlefield Band is a Scottish traditional music group founded in 1969. They are noted for the mix of bagpipes with other instruments, and their renditions of traditional songs and new material. While the band has gone through several lineups, their formula remains the same - bagpipes, electric keyboards (unusual for a traditional band) and no percussion (again, unusual). They have released 31 albums and have been nominated for many awards. The Moleskin Kilt/The Empty Glen can be found on their 2006 CD The Road of Tears, which has a theme of displacement and voluntary and forced emigration.