About Ben the Hoose

A but and ben was a single-storey Scottish house with two main rooms. The but end was typically used to refer to the working area; usually the kitchen and living area. The ben end was the better room, used when visitors arrived, for playing music, drinking single malt, and eating oat cakes. A visitor would be invited into the ben end, usually with the phrase "Come awa' ben" or "Come ben the hoose".

Ben the Hoose is a duo featuring fiddler Kenny Ritch from the Orkney Isles, and award-winning songwriter and guitarist Bob McNeill from Glasgow. They are based in New Zealand. Their music is a spirited interpretation of the dance music of Scotland; uniquely rhythmic and energetic, they embody the modern Scots tradition.

More about: Kenny Ritch Bob McNeill

The idea for Ben the Hoose came at the beginning of 2005 when Kenny and Bob discovered their shared passion for the music of Scotland, and a common desire to play it to audiences in a modern, accessible style. Kenny's fluid, vibrant fiddle playing and Bob's rhythmic chording and precise counterpoint are a perfect marriage of styles. Their live performances feature a wealth of traditional Scottish tunes as well as modern compositions, music from movies, and Bobís original songs. Bob has won two New Zealand Music Awards for his solo albums, most recently 2004ís Turn the Diesels.

Ben the Hoose released their debut album in October 2006. The Little Cascade is a collection of the passionate playing and inventive arrangements that has made Ben the Hoose such a live success. It features modern and traditional dance tunes from all over Scotland, two original songs by Bob, and a haunting, New Zealand-inspired version of Robert Tannahill's Gloomy Winterís Noo Awa'. The title track is a six-part reel written for Highland pipes by Pipe Major George S. McLennan during the First World War. McLennan, a prisoner of war in Germany at the time, is said to have composed the tune while unable to sleep because of a dripping tap.

The Little Cascade was recorded in Kennyís adopted hometown of Rangiora in Canterbury, between June and September 2006. It was mixed in Wellington, where Bob now lives. The album is dedicated to Kennyís daughter Evie, who arrived halfway through the recording, with several of the noisiest, most demanding sets still to be played. Evie encouraged the lads to finish the recording, provided her name appeared prominently in the sleeve notes.

More about: Kenny Ritch Bob McNeill

Photo by Andrew Mackay

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