The Elephant Sessions
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The Elephant Sessions

Inverness, Scotland, United Kingdom | Established. Jan 01, 2012

Inverness, Scotland, United Kingdom
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Folk Alternative


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"Folk’s finest get together for Trad Music Awards"

The Scottish folk community donned its very best bib and tucker at the weekend for the annual Scots Trad Music Awards, at which a record sellout audience of more than 1,000 celebrated the past year’s achievements, with a gusto and thirst to match the event’s unofficial status as the folk scene’s Christmas night out.

Scottish Trad Music Awards - Inverness Leisure Centre

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As the prizes were handed out, more than one speaker remarked on the continuing leaps-and-bounds progress of Scottish roots-based music over the awards’ 12-year history, and the event itself, from the glamorously attired crowd to the smooth, briskly paced production befitting a live TV event – broadcast on BBC Alba – presented a vibrantly gratifying contrast to stereotypes of yesteryear.

Even though it definitely feels like a proper, grown-up awards ceremony, though, it’s not lost its traditional soul. Organised by the Hands Up for Trad development agency, and primarily by its founding director, Simon Thoumire, the proceedings come complete with stylishly dressed tables, video montages of each categories’ nominees, and sparkly gold envelopes from which the winners’ names are revealed. Those envelopes, however, are filled at the kitchen table by Thoumire’s mum, and if his dad hadn’t braved the long, slow drive up a very snowy A9 the day before, those winners would have been missing not only their trophies but their free whisky from sponsor Glenfiddich.

Accepting the Club of the Year award, for the Tin Hut Sessions in rural Aberdeenshire, organiser Fraser Wilson spoke for most of the 18 prize categories – which range from Album, Band and Live Act to Community Project and Music Tutor of the Year – when he observed: “Any one of the nominees would have deserved this – but somebody’s got to win it.” Those final results are decided by an online public vote, with this year’s poll numbering over 100,000. The chosen ones included fiddler Duncan Chisholm, for his Live At Celtic Connections album; the Julie Fowlis Band; Instrumentalist of the Year Catriona McKay and Shetland dance-band institution Da Fustra. There was excellent live entertainment between announcements from a dozen diverse acts, including especially memorable performances from veteran groovemeisters Shooglenifty, Gaelic vocal quartet Cruinn, solo piper Stuart Liddell and Scots singer Siobhan Miller. Jim Sutherland, co-author of the spectacular multi-media show Struileag – Children of the Smoke, won particularly warm applause as Composer of the Year, a more than deserved accolade for one of the key innovators and instigators on the Scottish music scene. Among departed friends in whose honour a glass was raised, was Davie Henderson, longtime anchorman of the Shetland Folk Festival, who was remembered with a standing ovation.

In addition to the official accolades, top prize for best line of the night went to young Highland five-piece The Elephant Sessions, who concluded their acceptance speech for Up and Coming Act of the Year with a nod to the venue’s Aquadome facilities: “If anyone’s looking for us later, we’ll probably be in the flumes”. Mischa MacPherson, who topped the poll for Gaelic Singer of the Year, came a close second with her final thank-you, to “the person who decided it was a good idea to put chocolates on the tables”.

Probably Simon’s mum again.

By Sue Wilson - The Scotsman

"‘The Elusive Highland Beauty’ from The Elephant Sessions “… unbounded spectrum of shimmering music”"

There’s that instant when you hear something and you know it’s going to stay with you for a long time to come. It’s that often hard-to-find ‘I’m going to love this’ moment. ‘The Elusive Highland Beauty’, the debut album from The Elephant Sessions falls squarely into that category. The band call themselves a ‘neo-trad quintet’, well that’s alright by me, call yourself what you will, but to my ears this is five highly-skilled, creative musicians freely mixing whatever aural colours intrigue their collective musical pallets into an unbounded spectrum of shimmering music.

It has been said that any instrumental album ‘stands or falls on what it lacks, that most versatile instrument of all, the human voice’. Well that doesn’t apply to this instrumental album. ‘The Elusive Highland Beauty’ lacks nothing and needs no more than it already offers. It’s brimming with outstanding levels of innovation, inventiveness and discovery wrapped around a touchable energy that pervades every track. And what you hear first time is definitely not all you get. The intricacy of this music is such that every time you listen another facet shines through – currently still listening and still finding more.

The Elephant Sessions engages you first with ‘Ainya’s’ and in a few seconds you know you’re listening to something exceptional as the tune jaunts to unexpected places, then before long you’re heading into the superbly constructed abundance of ‘The Elusive Highland Beauty’. This music thrives on the dash of fiddle, guitar and mandolin duelling with one another, while bass and drums lay down an attention-grabbing barrage, add synths and piano to the brew, and you have a mix that intoxicates.

With the suite of tunes that form ‘The Treble’ the band embarks on another journey through their diverse repertoire – from the stately portents of power in ‘Chase’ through the darker snaking auguries of ‘Sinners’ to the exhilarating form and presence of ‘The Empress’ – imagination flies free. With yet more of their ever-changing experimentation, allowing just enough time to breathe with an intro of softly soothing strings, ‘The Sea Tune’ too takes off into another maelstrom of sound.

The Elephant Sessions are Euan Smillie (fiddle) Alasdair Taylor (mandolin) Mark Bruce (guitars) Seth Tinsley (bass) Greg Barry (drums, vox).

The Elephant Sessions morph traditional instruments and tunes into an amalgam of synthesised exploration built around their own eclectic expression; and the result is ‘The Elusive Highland Beauty’ … it’s stunning and ultimately elusive.

Reviewer: Tim Carroll - Folkwords


Still working on that hot first release.



Award winning Neo-Trad quintet forged in the Highlands of Scotland. Drawing influence from many different genres, they create a progressive blend of intricate tunes, engulfing guitars, monsterous bass and pounding drums. Already renowned for their breathtaking live shows, summer 2014 saw the band climb to new heights with the release of their critically acclaimed debut album: The Elusive Highland Beauty.

"Quite possibly the best instrumental debut since 'Venus in Tweeds' by Shooglenifty"

Bruce MacGregor, BBC Radio Scotland Travelling Folk

The Elephant Sessions are;

Greg Barry - Drums

Mark Bruce - Guitars

Euan Smillie - Fiddle

Alasdair Taylor - Mandolin

Seth Tinsley - Bass


Band Members