Arts, Culture & Media

Video: The Peatbog Faeries' 'Dust'

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The Peatbog Faeries performing at the annual Celtic Connections in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo: Maria Bakkalapulo)

Hailing from the Scottish Isle of Skye, the Peatbog Faeries had a simple life working as carpenters on the island. Starting out they played at local hotels and pubs, but when half the island would turn out to see them, they decided to form a full-time band.

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Two decades later, the group can draw the crowds.

The group's name reflects the member's deep highland roots. It comes from a period when the bandmates were working for an old woman cutting peat, or slabs of decomposing vegetation left to dry and used for fuel.

"We were staying in the area and because we were doing work for her, she would give us food and whatnot," says bassist Innes Hutton. "It was just lovely spending some time there and she gave us this name, the Peat Faeries. Faeries of the moor. Just because we were playing tunes at lunchtime and stuff like that. So just sitting way out in the moor and playing and working and we got that moniker from that."

Originally the band both sang and played tunes. After 20 years of touring, their set became entirely instrumental music. Peter Morrison, bagpipe and whistle player for the group, says it was what the fans wanted more of.

"Obviously, as a band you normally gravitate to the stuff people are enjoying the most. You go by the crowd," explains Morrison. "We started mixing a bit of reggae and funk with pipe tunes. That was really popular. So we kind of started moving towards that. By the time we released our first album, we almost moved completely away from songs."

It was the rising popularity of festivals in the UK that really built up their fan numbers.

"The festival scene now is way beyond what I remember when I was young. You know, it is all differently catered for all styles. There are retro festivals, boutique festivals, Celtic festivals, world music festivals, you name it," says bassist Innes Hutton. "So if you can move between genres, there is a lot of work there. It has definitely burgeoned in the last 10-15 years."

The two leads in the Peatbog Faeries are the group's composer, bagpipe and whistle player Peter Morrison and the furiously fast fiddler Peter Tickell, also known for his work with Sting.

Guitarist Tom Salter, who has played with the late Malian superstar Ali Farka Toure, binds the rhythm with his own distinctive African High-Life playing. Peter Morrison says the band is a grab-bag of styles.

"You now, there's the traditional instruments in it, the fiddle and pipes, but the rest of the makeup of the band could be from anywhere in the world," Morrison says."There's keys, bass, drums, electric guitar, brass. So it can be from any genre of music. It identifies strongly with Scotland because of the pipes and fiddle."

Traditional Scottish music is appealing to audiences young and old more than ever before and moving in whole new directions.

"There are so many young, really well trained talented people out there doing it now because it has this credibility," explains Hutton, the bass player. "They are taking the music into a whole new bounds. For instance, there are no guitars in traditional music, but all traditional young bands have guitars in them. There wasn't a guitar in traditional music a 100 years ago. There were no accordions a 100 years ago," Innes points out. "Now they dominate whole styles. It's just really a positive thing to be involved with."

Their latest album Dust, has melodies inspired by idyllic places in Scotland and some tunes have a less noble origin, like Naughty Step.

"Basically, Rick, the trombone player had done something naughty," Peter Morrison explains, as everybody laughs. "Like, he drank most of the rider. Graham said, 'look, Rick, that's you on the naughty step. You've done such and such.' So, basically the name is connected to a bit of music. That is the inspiration behind Naughty Step."