PLACE has always been at the heart of traditional music. It inspires and shapes musicians as stories of bygone heroism, love affairs, tragedies, bad winters and legendary bouts of drinking are kept alive through tunes and song for later generations. The land comes alive through the music.

Daimh have seldom strayed far from their musical home. Emerging out of the session scene centred on Glenuig and Glenfinnan in the 1990s, the band have long been champions of the music of western Lochaber and the surrounding islands. And now, following on from the success of their live album of traditional tunes and songs recorded solely on islands, The Hebridean Sessions, they have returned to the studio with a collection of self-penned and traditional tunes and Gaelic song with their latest offering, The Rough Bounds.

The Rough Bounds – Na Garbh Chriochan in Gaelic – is that area of the west coast which starts with Knoydart and takes in the peninsulas of North Morar and Moidart and is bounded in the north by Loch Hourn and in the south by Loch Shiel. It is a wild land, steeped in Jacobean mystery.

“It’s very much where the band started,” explains guitarist Ross Martin. “Myself, (former Daimh banjo player) Colm O’Rua, and (current Daimh fiddler) Gabe McVarish were all living in Glenuig when we started the band, so it’s always been at the heart of it.

“Gabe’s family connections are from this area while (piper) Angus Mackenzie has strong family ties to the area as well from before his family moved over to Canada. And while Murdo “Yogi” Cameron (mandola and accordion) lives in Glenelg which is just outside the Rough Bounds, and (singer) Ellend MacDonald lives on Skye, they both look over at it.

“The Rough Bounds are very much our spiritual homeland.”

It isn’t only the sense of place which makes The Rough Bounds a homecoming of sorts for Daimh. It is the return to the studio and sets of original tunes interspersed with traditional arrangements that sees the band return to their roots after The Hebridean Sessions, which was solely a collection of traditional tunes and song.

“It’s a wee bit of a return for us going back to having tunes we’d written ourselves and traditional tunes,” says Martin. “However, the main difference I think is we had more time to work on the songs on this album.

“Ellen had more time to source songs that would work with what we do. She came to The Hebridean Sessions quite last minute as she’d just finished college, so this time she has been given more time to find songs. She also has a larger repertoire now.

“And with it being a studio album we were able to spend more time developing the songs.”

The result is an album that rewards repeated listening as the band’s musicianship becomes ever clearer, while MacDonald’s vocals have an ethereal immediacy which few can match.

Indeed, MacDonald’s growing reputation as one of the country’s finest new voices is acknowledged on The Rough Bounds with the singer being placed, as Martin puts it, “front and centre”.

“There are a couple of sets of puirt a beul and that was something we took from The Hebridean Sessions as it really seemed to work in a way we’d never had it before,” Martin explains. “We are able to treat these songs like a set of tunes, which means we are able to have Ellen on stage more.

“Before Ellen we had Calum Alex MacMillan as singer but he played pipes and whistle and after him we had Griogair Labhruidh, who played pipes. So when Ellen joined it was too much like we were an instrumental band who sometimes brought a guest singer on stage, and we wanted to address that.

“I think this album really cements her position as an integral member of the band.”

The other big change from The Hebridean Sessions is the addition of an extra fiddler in the shape of Alasdair White, of the Battlefield Band. Now based in New York, White has for a time been deputising for McVarish on Daimh’s North American tours while McVarish concentrates on his growing brewery business at his home on the Isle of Eigg.

“It was important for us to have Alasdair involved in the making of the album – contributing tunes and coming up with ideas – so when we go away and play with him he’s not just filling in for somebody or simply playing someone else’s tunes, he has a lot of ownership of it. So he and Gabe both played on all the tracks so they’re both members of the band, but they haven’t yet played a live gig with the band together.”

The concept of family, and a wider Daimh family, has always been central to the band’s ethos. Their name itself means kinship, and they have always taken that idea seriously, and so the addition of White is a far more organic process than might be imagined.

“He’s someone we’ve known for a long time and his style of fiddle playing is so suited to the pipes, which is rare,” says Martin. “There are very few fiddle players who can fit the sound as well as Alasdair.”

And it is not just collecting new members to bring into the Daimh family that makes the band special. They also collect Scottish islands.

“On this tour we will be paying Muck and Canna for the first time,” says Martin. “Muck I think will be number 28 and Canna will be Scottish island number 29. It’s a kind of endless task so we haven’t set ourselves a target number – apart from all of them …

“We do however have our international headquarters based in Cheesebay, North Uist. The red telephone box, Cheesebay, North Uist, to be exact.”

The reason for this lies back with a video the band posted on YouTube ahead of the launch of The Hebridean Sessions which shows them – and their instruments – all exiting from the remote phone box.

“We’ve been handing out postcards at gigs wherever we’ve been touring and asking punters to write a message on them and send them to the red phone box in Cheesebay, and when they arrive Ellen’s uncle collects them and pins them up in the phone box,” says Martin. “We’ve had stuff from all over the world, little girls from Wyoming looking for pen pals and all sorts.”

North America has become something of a second home for the band over the past few years and Martin insists the novelty has yet to wear off.

“It’s a lot of work and a lot of travelling but it’s worth it. It’s stimulating when you get to new places. Last tour we went across Washington, Oregon, California and then Arizona into Colorado. When you get to drive during the daytime it’s beautiful. I still get a buzz out of it.”

For now, however, the band are embarking on some dates closer to home. They played Martin’s home village of Arisaig last week and now it is on to Paisley on May 23, then the gigs on Muck and Canna on May 24 and 25 and then a special anniversary gig at Armadale on Skye, 20 years to the day since the band’s first ever gig together which was held at the nearby Sabhal Mor Ostaig.

After that there are a few summer festival dates the highlight of which will be a gig at a festival of mouth music in Germany which will see the band do a set of puirt a beul and a set of rap with former member and Gaelic rapper Labhruidh.

“It’s going to be good to work with Griogair again so now we have to work up a set to show the counteract between the pipes and hip-hop and the Gaelic puirt a beul,” says Martin.

After that it will be back home to the Rough Bounds and a planned School of Daimh learning event in Arisaig in November, which will focus on adult tuition.

For Daimh, traditional music will always be about place and belonging. But it is also about sharing, about kinship and about passing on the baton.

The Rough Bounds is released on Goat Island Music on May 27.

Daimh play Paisley Arts Centre on May 23.