May You Also…. have a day as special as this!


Yesterday was a great day… one of those days you know you’ll never forget. Here’s the story…

For a few years now, I’ve been playing with the very talented and lovely Rory Butler. Rory is a remarkable songwriter and a beautiful guitar player – think John Martyn meets Nick Drake – dexterous picking and captivating countermelodies. For a while there, after we’d done a gig, audience members would comment on how we reminded them of John Martyn and Danny Thompson.

That got me thinking about Danny Thompson, international bass-guru (and very good bloke), one thing led to another and Danny became my professional mentor in August last year. The project, which is supported by Creative Scotland, is called ‘Bass Without Borders’, and focuses on the double bass in Scottish music, and in particular, trad music*. Along with allowing me room to play loads, expand my sound, licks and tricks, practice things that I’ve been wanting to practice forever (but never had time before!), and generally get even more upclose and personal with my double bass, it’s been a real rejuvenator for the projects I’ve been doing for a while.

To cut a fabby story short, Rory’s set was a total hit with the man himself, who went to fetch the very last guitar made for John Martyn (by Martin), and handed it to Rory to play. And I got to see ‘May You Never’ played live, with the original bass player (having a ball!) and someone who deserves to play John’s guitar. It was very special – words don’t really do it.

So, if you too want to see and hear something very special… join us at the Queens Hall, Edinburgh, this coming Saturday 8th March, to hear Rory’s and myself doing our thing. Emily Smith is headlining – prepare to be blown away! Tickets here – hope to see you!

* Interested in hearing the double bass explore new territory and textures in Scottish trad music? Check out Damian Helliwell’s Metta, download the FREE EP, and be prepared to dance round the living room!

Life in the Highlands and Islands

Hello from a very cold, wet and inhospitable Isle of Eigg!

So, this winter, I’m doing an experiment, whereby I’m located up this way, when I’m not in Edinburgh or running around the UK with my bass in tow. The idea was that it would be a restful time, allowing for hours of playing and practice, working on recording my own music and getting down to some new project plans, all with ‘none of the mainland distractions’.
And here I am, working away constructing new bass parts for Rory Butler’s latest tunes (gigs ahoy – see gigs page), working on my Danny Thompson project ‘Bass without Borders’, and doing funding bids for a big cross-border project involving ten of the UK’s leading female folk musicians – entitled ‘Songs of Separation’ (info to follow). Still have time to get up to nonsense with this bunch o’ talented teuchters, DaimhMOR (‘Daimh big band’ – see the beautifully made film above)…

Damian Helliwell’s ‘Metta’ – new year, new band, new album!


It’s a real priviledge to be playing with some of Scotland’s leading traditional musicians, and to debut the work of hebridean composer Damian Helliwell. Described as a ‘mandolin and banjo ace’, Damian is also a gifted composer, who has spent the past 5 years both building his own strawbale house and recording studio on the Isle of Eigg, AND amassing a huge repertoire of self-penned tunes which take the contemporary trad idiom to exciting new places.

The album will be debuted live at The Arches, on the 18th January, as part of the Celtic Connections festival, where a free EP will be given to all who join us! The full album will be released in March 2014. Click here to find out more about the gig and to book tickets.

With Damian Helliwell (mandolin / banjo), Andy Thorburn (piano), Eilidh Shaw (fiddle), Donald Hay (percussion) and Jenny Hill (double bass).

Visit Metta’s website
Visit Metta’s facebook page

New music with Rory Butler

rory-butler-jen-hillIt’s really been a busy few months, so I’ve not had time to put up some new tracks recorded back in the summer, with Rory Butler. Rory and I have been working together since 2011, when he won the Celtic Connections Danny Kyle award, and was suddenly appearing live on BBC radio 3, and sharing gigs with the likes of Sam Lee and the late, great Micheal Marra.

Rory’s both an excellent guitarist and a true poet, with a songwriting style reminiscent of Nick Drake and John Martyn. In fact, it was frequent comparison of our live sound to that of John Martyn and Danny Thompson that set me off thinking about working with Danny…(hence the ‘Bass without Borders’ project – more on that later).

Recorded in just two days, at Ferndale Studios in Dumfriesshire, these new tracks demonstrate an evolution in Rory’s sound (his acclaimed first album ‘Naked Trees’ is available from My particular favourite is ‘London’, which had little-to-no rehearsal, and captures the freedom of our live performances.

Check out my music page for a preview of some of the tracks. Or come along to the Queen’s Hall (Edinburgh) on 8th March 2014, to hear us in person (other dates are available on Rory’s website).

Daimh, the ‘gaelic supergroup’ – UK album release


More exciting news which took place in October – the UK release of the new Daimh album, which featured a number of guest players, including myself on bass, in addition to the original 5 piece band. This was another ‘quick fire’ job, just a couple of days in the studio, putting down bass lines for what is probably the most traditional of traditional bands on the scene in Scotland. Having been at it for 15 years, this band are well known throughout the gaelic speaking world and beyond, and they continue to retain their sense of humour. Gigs are fuelled by west coast banter and stories of the band’s many adventures over the years, not to mention their excellent musicianship and deep understanding of the genre. Get a sense of what they’re about in this short film.

Seeing the full ‘big band’ line up (DaimhMOR – meaning ‘DaimhBIG’) is a rare treat (most stages aren’t big enough), but Feis Na Mara festival in Mallaig did us proud and squeezed us all on stage somehow. We had a blast!

I can highly recommend the new Daimh Album ‘Tuneship’. For a copy, go to the Daimh website.

Metta and the Eigg Studio


I’ve been pretty remiss with the website recently…but it’s for good reason! September was spent in (what I’m sure is) one of the most beautiful places on earth, The Isle of Eigg (Scottish Highlands), for two weeks of intensive recording at the new Eigg Studio. The studio is a really special place; a straw-bale, 100% ecofriendly build, beautiful inside and out, and overlooking the waters of the Little Minch. It was built singlehandedly by Damian Helliwell, an accomplished mandolin and banjo player, who has now put together a five piece ensemble as a vehicle for his many new-trad compositions that have been itching to get out into the world, while he’s been busy building!

It was a joy to be working with the brilliance of percussionist Donald Hay, pianist Andy Thorburn and fiddler Eilidh Shaw, and experimenting with all sorts, from A=432hz to juicing raw vegetables (and fruit), we had a fantastic, full-on, fortnight and the results will be heard on the album, due to be released in the new year. I’ll post a tune or two when they’re mixed and mastered.

Come and hear us at the Celtic Connections Festival, on the 18th January 2014, at The Arches. You can book tickets on the Celtic Connections website.