Alastair Clark (5th December 1997) - BEST OF THE WEEK
"Bravely swimming against the powerful crossover tide, and avoiding those
tempting rock-pools on the way, this young band deliver a magnificent blast of
fresh, invigorating Scottish music, with Rory Campbell’s brilliant, unbridled
Highland bagpipes leading the charge. No wonder Capercaillie’s Fred Morrison is
singing their praises: “A real breath of fresh air that the Scottish music scene
can be proud of.” I’ll second that. The ensembles are a glorious blaze of sound,
the sheer swing and vigour of the Highland pipes propelling the band along on
bare, string-driven rhythm patterns. Campbell switches to breathy whistle on
some tracks, and still the itching, propulsive surge is there. Amazing. The
bouzouki man Malcolm Stitt, also picks up the pipes from time to time so the
fiddles of Marianne Campbell and Clare McLaughlin don’t get a lot of scope, but
Campbell seizes her chance in the ‘Clanranald’ set to show her winning way with
her variations on an old Gaelic air. All of this might be enough to mark out
Deaf Shepherd as the folk band most likely to hit the high spots, but in John
Morran they have a remarkable singer, a born storyteller capable of bringing the
most musty of ancient ballads to perky, meaningful life. Morran is that relative
rarity on the traditional scene, a singer who clearly feels what he is singing
as well as understanding it. His version of Gavin Stevenson’s beautiful “Huntin’
the Buntin’” almost steals the show. "
Norman Chalmers (9-22 Jan 1998) *****
"Certainly one of the year’s best Scottish albums, Deaf Shepherd’s “Synergy”
was released at a recent Edinburgh concert that could have sold out twice over.
Wholly, joyfully Scottish in feel, their second album is full of character,
great tunes old and new, and a tasteful eschewing of the music technology and
tempo excesses of similar young bands. John Morran’s Scots songs, especially
Burns’ rarely heard ‘Winter O Life’, are set in imaginative frames, the
instrumental music is exceptionally well played, the pipe tunes have inexorable
energy (and some wild rhythms - try clapping your hands to Rory Campbell’s
‘Keys, Money, Fags’), and there’s a great care for detail in Tony McManus’
bright, classy production job."
Rob Adams (20th December 1997)
"This young Scots quintet takes a major stride forward with this second CD,
full of good tunes, many of them group originals, with lots of crisp, tight
playing on fiddles, pipes and whistles. Strong rhythmical patterns strike a fine
balance between melody and drive, and John Morran continues to flower as a
quietly expressive singer of traditional songs and humorous ditties"
The Living Tradition
Frances Morton (Issue 26, April/May
"If musical synergy exists, then no better band could demonstrate its meaning
than traditional Scottish group Deaf Shepherd. The opening Jean Carignan set is
a winner. With John Morran’s bright chordal introduction, and an enticing bit of
ad libbing from Rory Campbell on low whistle, the musical tension builds, the
tune starts and Deaf Shepherd are off. The clean, dynamic changes from reels to
jig and back to reels, involves vigorous fiddling from Marianne Curran and Clare
McLaughlin, and great strength and lead from Rory Campbell, this time on
Highland pipes. But that’s not to say all sentimentality is lost in the vroom,
for in John Morran’s stirring rendition of “Winter O’ Life”, Robert Burns has
been remarkably complimented. Here Malcolm Stitt’s poignant guitar blends fiddle
and whistle countermelodies smoothly with the vocals. The variety of their
music, based on the Scottish tradition, ranges from old to new; from Marianne’s
version of “Bothan Airigh Am Braigh Rainneach”, to Clare’s self penned jig “My
Friend Sharon”. Another band written tune, Rory’s “Keys, Money, Fags” displays
his amazing rhythmical skill. Very impressive all round"
Al Reiss (1998)
"Sometimes its difficult to keep track of the number of fine young Scottish
bands around these days, but once you hear the effort by Deaf Shepherd on its
second album, you may find them easy to remember. Seven of the 12 selections are
instrumentals and the dance tunes among them are characteristically fiery and
energetic without sacrificing clarity or sparkle. Morran is an appealing
vocalist. The lyrics of the songs are in the Scots brogue and Morran sings them
that way with sincerity and authenticity and without any hint of trivialisation.
High marks all round for Deaf Shepherd and Synergy."
Bob Walton (No. 179, May
"Deaf Shepherd are a young Scottish band that are rapidly building a
reputation, and on the strength of their second album its not hard to see why.
They manage to seamlessly blend skill and youthful exuberance with musical
taste, great tunes and interesting arrangements, while keeping everything under
control in a way that few bands achieve. The album title is highly appropriate
and if they keep improving at this rate they are going to go a long way.
Michael and Christian Moll (Issue 2,
"Deaf Shepherd are one of the liveliest bands on the Scottish scene, their
youthful energy just blows you away. Definitely one of Scotland’s best bands and
also one of the best new albums of 1997. Their second album shows them again at
the height of their talents. John Morran sings five beautiful and tastefully
arranged songs in Scots. The other 7 pieces are sets of cracking wild and
beautiful slow tunes, some of them composed by Deaf Shepherd’s Rory Campbell,
being one of Scotland’s best pipers and pipe tune composers…..make sure you
catch Deaf Shepherd live or better, book them for your club! "
The Scots Magazine
"The word Synergy means (more or less) that if you put two people’s ideas
together, the total of ideas will be more than just two. The latest album from
Deaf Shepherd shows just how true this can be, with a dozen tracks inventively
and innovatively played and sung in a way that cannot fail to take a trick, both
with their growing following, and with the as yet uncommitted. Pipes, fiddles,
vocals - they are all there, along with an eclectic choice of material that
fairly rattles the listener along from one peak of musicianship to the next, and
from one fascination to the next. One moment it’s flying fingers in a set of
pipe hornpipes, the next it’s a song on the Hawick twang, then a cracking 2/4
march, or a sad ballad whose origin is lost in the mists of time"
Rock 'N' Reel
John O'Regan (Issue 30, Spring 1998)
"Deaf Shepherd have become a welcome presence at festivals throughout Europe
and at home. ‘Synergy’ proves the adage that roadwork tightens a band up no end.
They use pipes, fiddles, guitar and bouzouki as their front line in an
aggregation that is both tightly knit and equally spacious. ‘Jean Carignan’
typifies that description, with Rory Campbell’s pipes and the twin fiddles of
Marianne Curran and Clare McLaughlin blowing hell for leather. John Morran’s
sensitive handling of Burns’ ‘Winter O’ Life’ adds subtle light and shade. The
promise that Deaf Shepherd previously exhibited has been worked on and honed
down into something at once powerful and highly accomplished"
Shreds and Patches
Brian Douglas (Issue 13, Summer 1998)
"To quote the introduction from the sleeve ‘For those unacquainted with Deaf
Shepherd and their music - there are a number of surprises waiting to be
unveiled’. This is not an understatement. There is a depth and feeling
throughout all the tracks which echoes the band’s obvious pleasure and joy for
the music. The balance of music and song throughout is good, and the end is
reached all too soon. Playing through again still leaves you wanting more. The
music is powerful, deep and sucks you into the beat. You won’t fall asleep with
this playing - watch out for track six."
Chris Woods, Senior Reviewer (Midsummer Eve Issue, Summer 1998)
"By some quirk of either geography or lack of attention on my part I have
managed neither to hear Deaf Shepherd’s first album nor to have heard them play
live. Listening to Synergy, I realise these are both omissions on my part that
require remedial action in the near future. Because their name is a play on name
of a certain heavy metal group I was expecting Deaf Shepherd to be rather more
‘rogueish’ and aggressive in sound, but not so. There is certainly plenty of
energy and a lively feel to it but the album is a very smooth and polished
production. The five person lineup …gives the band a distinct and very
satisfying full rounded sound for an acoustic lineup ...the voices and
instrumentals are absolutely great"