ON TOUR WITH ROSS & ALI – by Jenn Butterworth

I had the pleasure of running about the country on tour with Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton this April.  They’ve been launching their second album, SYMBIOSIS II, and to celebrate we played a run of trio gigs leading up to a big band gig at the Drygate in Glasgow.  I missed the first couple of shows as I was recording a really exciting new album with Kinnaris Quintet, so for the first leg of the tour in Canterbury and Southport Owen Sinclair was on guitar and vocals.

We travelled a fair bit of the country, starting in London, weaving our way back to Glasgow via Belper and Kendal, then travelling north to Stornoway, Strathdon, Perth and Skye.  We met some wonderful audiences, and really lovely hosts.  There were some pretty crazy trips, including driving to Skye and back in one day!  To be fair, although we spent many hours in the car, we managed to see some quite spectacular views, particularly on our way to Stornoway and Skye.

You might think that a duo would quite easily fit in one car; when I’m on tour with Laura-Beth Salter our instruments, bags and PA system can all fit happily in the boot.  However, as Ross & Ali are brilliant multi-instrumentalists, they have a lot of stuff!  On the SYMBIOSIS albums, Ali plays the guitar, but he’s only got 2 arms, so needs me to cover that while he plays the whistles, tenor guitar and bagpipes.  Along with that, we have Ross’ bagpipes, whistles, cittern and stomp box.  We also have 3 pedal boards with effects, so you can imagine the car is starting to feel smaller and smaller!  A meticulous game of car tetris needs to be played to make sure everything will fit in.  Now all we need to make things really cosy is to add another person, and a sound desk.  An important part of any live performance is the sound, so making the duo up to four people is Andrea Gobbi.  Andrea recorded both SYMBIOSIS albums, and he mixes the live gigs, adding extra effects mid-performance.  He’s an excellent engineer, and also deals with a lot of tour logistics.

It’s been great fun working and playing music with the band; they are fantastic musicians, and lovely people to spend time with.  I’m looking forward to catching up with Ross, Ali and Andrea again at Gigha Festival on Saturday 30th June, where we’ll be doing a collaborative gig with Laura-Beth Salter.