James Ross is obviously a classically trained pianist, and is a superb musician; in fact he studied piano under the late Addie Harper and more recently under Mary McCarthy at the RSAMD, Glasgow. It was here where he graduated with a BA in Scottish Music in July 2000. As part of a group, was a finalist in the 1999 Radio 2 Young Folk Award. James currently plays piano as part of Gaelic singer James Graham's trio plus he also works and tours with fiddler Anna-Wendy Stevenson.
This is his debut album as a soloist. On it he performs a selection of mainly traditional tunes on his piano. He is obviously a gifted performer but the album and his choice of material, especially the slower tunes, did not enthuse me. They sound a little to clinical and perfect for a traditional, or even a folk music entertainer. This only my own personal view I hasten to add, you on the other hand, - if you are a classical pianist might perceive the album with a different 'ear'.
James performs each tune absolutely note perfect. There are 12 tracks on the album, usually a slow one follows the faster tune, and I am sorry to say that on a piano - they were just not my taste! The album starts with 'The Haggis', a set of 3 tunes normally played on the fiddle. These showed off James nimble fingers and started the album of reasonably well. Unfortunately, it died with the next one 'Roslin Castle' and I found myself hitting the skip button every time I played the album. Ditto the same with track 3 and 4. The 'Spaghetti Panic' set wasn't to bad, but any euphoria or enthusiasm generated for the album again died again with 'O Mo Dhuthaich' at track 4. However, at track 10 you will find 'Iggie and Squiggie set' which did stand out. These are a set of newly composed reels, 'Iggie and Sqiggie' by Jerry Holand, 'Cartharsis' by Amy Cann, and 'Fleur de Mandragore' by Michael Bordeleau. Arranged by James with May Halyburton on double bass, James Mackintosh on percussion, and Martin O'Neill on Bodhran. Other guest musician is Sue McKenzie on Soprano Saxophone on track 9 'The Gloom in my Soul'.
The album left me with the impression that ,as a solo artist, James might be better of playing something more suited in the classical field. I find it hard to see whom this album would be favoured by in the folk music world. It would be a pity if his talent went to waste and he was designated to playing in the coffee lounge / restaurant of some posh hotel, supplying background music that nobody really listens to, and secretly wishes he would stop when it gets in the way of their conversation.
So there you have it. James Ross is a brilliant pianist -- of that there is no doubt. This album did not raise the spirit in my blood, but maybe it will for you. The performance of Traditional music needs to come from the heart, not from the exam room. It's the absence of passion or feeling that fails to lift this album above pleasant piano background music.
Sorry, - but this album left me in no-mans land.
There is no dedicated website for James Ross, - but you can buy the album on line here.