Kinnaris Quintet are a group that has been rapidly rising through the folk ranks since the release of their critically acclaimed debut album in 2018. They swiftly followed that by winning the Belhaven Bursary for Innovation in Music (the biggest cash prize in Scottish music) in 2019. They would likely have reached new heights last year if not for you-know-what. On tonight’s showing, though, they sound like a group raring to make up for that lost time throughout their rousing performance at the Edinburgh International Festival.
While they don’t dwell on last year, front woman Aileen Reid does pointedly open by saying ‘welcome back to live music’ – understandably relishing playing again. The set opener also makes reference given its all-too-appropriate title, This Too Shall Pass. A sprightly number to kick off things, it’s the kind of track that makes you think of someone ecstatically galloping through the Cairngorms.
The song sets up things well, too; make no mistake, the group’s songs are firmly in the traditional Celtic folk wheelhouse. However, one of the impressive things about the quintet (made up of three fiddlers, a mandolin player, and a guitarist) is that while they never radically depart from the traditional formula, they also never sound staid or old-fashioned. This is partly down to the subtle addition of other elements such as bluegrass, though also due to their skill as musicians and ability to make everything sound both familiar and uniquely their own.
Kinnaris Quintet are consistently engaging performers. It is always fun to see an act truly enjoy themselves on stage and here you can feel their energy beaming off the stage. Between songs, the band joke with one another and Reid (who did most of the talking) banters with the audience – playfully goading some latecomers or joking about doing a ‘world tour’ of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
With many highlights to choose from, chief among them is the title track of their debut album Free One. It is a swooningly uplifting piece, the atmosphere of which is only added to by the ethereal harmonising of Reid, Laura Beth Slater (mandolin), and Jenn Butterworth (guitar). Equally impressive is the quintet’s encore number, The Weatherman, which has a stomping beat spearheaded by Reid, Laura Wilkie, and Fiona MacAskill’s fiery fiddling. Beefed up further by Butterworth’s driving acoustic guitar riff and given extra bluegrass flavour by Slater’s mandolin, it is a triumphant finish to a sparkling evening of folk music.