Published: 05/09/2014 16:00 - Updated: 05/09/2014 16:17

Washington Irving roadtest new songs

Washington Irving back out live in the Highlands.
Washington Irving back out live in the Highlands.

FIVE-PIECE Washington Irving disappeared, but haven’t split or moved to a country far, far away and they’re back live for a short Highland tour.

The band’s Joe Black explains that four Highland dates over the next week are the first gigs the band has played in the north for a long time.

"We have been in self-imposed exile," he laughed, having returned to his home patch of Dalmally near Oban from Glasgow..

But the band has had good reason.

Getting together only to write and rehearse, they now have an album’s-worth of new songs to roadtest live before recording their next album.

"It’s been an amazing year for the band, we just went off to write without telling anyone what we were doing."

The reason they are going so far is to get the chance to record with producer and recording engineer Kevin McMahon – who is based in his own studio Marcata Recording in upstate New York.

He came to Washington Irving’s attention for his work as engineer on Frightened Rabbit’s second album Midnight Organ Fight.

And after releasing album Palomides last year, Washington Irving made a wishlist of possible producers for the next one.

Joe explained: "We just thought we’d aim high – with everything we did – so we picked Kevin out as the producer we most wanted to work with from our original wishlist."

He has worked with American bands admired by Washington Irving, from Titus Andronicus to Real Estate.

Joe said: "At first I didn’t even know Kevin had also engineered the Frightened Rabbit album – they’ve been really good pals of ours.

"When we toured with them – and then last year supported Runrig at their 40th anniversary at Muir Of Ord, we saw where we wanted to be.

"When I started writing this album, I wanted us to end up recording it in New York working with Kevin, but I didn’t know whether it would be possible."

Creative Scotland has given the band a grant to make the album.

"This year has been very concentrated, private, dark room work!

"It’s been a small revolution for the band, this way of working.

"Now we are almost ready to show the world what we’ve been doing.

"This tour also makes sense because we spent a lot of time last year playing England, but we didn’t really tour the Highlands at all. "So I think before we go to America, where we’ve never been before as a band – and the idea is brand-new and daunting – that these dates are the perfect way to show people here what we’ve been doing. And that we haven’t gone away!"

It also means a welcome return for the band to the Ironworks – "our first time in Inverness since we played with Runrig", Stornoway and Aviemore.

But there’s a first for Washington Irving too.

"We’ve often passed through Ullapool to get to Lewis, but this will be our first time playing there," said Joe.

Washington Irving will play the Woodlands Centre, Stornoway, tomorrow (Friday), a free show at The Old Bridge Inn, Aviemore on Saturday and the Ironworks, Inverness, on Sunday.

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