Foot Stompin’ Free Scottish Music Podcast No 32

Breabach - The Big Spree

Breabach - The Big Spree

Listen to the Foot Stompin’ Free Scottish Music Podcast No 32.

We’re starting off this programme with Breabach. I’ve loved this band ever since I heard their (very attractive) demo. In fact I think the tune we play on the podcast – Chloe’s passion was on it. Also each member of the band has entered the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award starting with Patsy Reid in the inaugural Award in 2000 up to Ewan Robertson winning in 2008. Band members Patsy and Calum MacCrimmon both came back this year to help judge the Finals. I enjoy the way they play as an ensemble all listening to each other while still leaving room to breathe for each of their solo talents. Look out for them in Scotland and England throughout March.

Another inaugural Young Trad Awardee (and winner) was Gillian Frame and she features with Findlay Napier (another finalist) in the Findlay Napier and the Bar Room Mountaineers. Their CD Out All Night has just come out in the last months and has enjoyed critical success. I noticed the other day they are doing some touring around Scotland in April with the Peatbog Faeries. Definitely worth checking out.

Our next track is from guitar maestro Tony McManus. Tony is one of the hardest working musicians I know. He seems to go non stop! This new record of his is an unusual album because the recording of each track features a different guitar, from the collection of North Carolina’s Dream Guitars founder Paul Heumiller and each hand-picked by Tony and Paul. Amazingly on the last track he manages to play them all – I love to see that! I spent some time with Tony on the German Folk Festival tour a few years back and I invented the Wooden CD prize for the person who sold the least CDs on the tour. Unfortunately I went on to win it – typical…

I mentioned Ruairidh Macmillan in the last blog who won this years BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award. Well he is playing and touring with the Paul McKenna Band, a young singer who people are talking about favouritely. I don’t know much about this band but their record sounds great!

I’ve known about the Gaelic Psalm singing for a while but when I was thinking what track to play next I came apon the Salm and Soul CD. I listened to the first track and when I checked out the second I was surprised to hear a gospel number! The CD was recorded at Celtic Connections and the concert arose from the theory that the call-and-response structures of African-American gospel music derived in large part from traditional Gaelic psalm singing, brought over by Scottish immigrants to the American South. Whatever you think both tracks sound great.

We finish up with Box Club, a troup of 4 accordionists. Watch out for them on tour in Scotland this March.

How to get a head

Aly Bain

Aly Bain

….in Scottish music? Looking at our high profile musicians like Phil Cunningham, Aly Bain, Dick Gaughan, Jean Redpath (and more) how have they ‘made it’? The answer is they have worked non-stop for years now touring and performing constantly. If I was to decide today that I wanted their profile and fan base how would I do it? Would I buy the latest Living Tradition magazine, start phoning the folk clubs listed in the mag, offer them my services plus a garland of publicity materials, and then tour constantly throughout the world playing festivals, clubs etc (if I am lucky)? NO I don’t think I have the will to do this. I would have to give up my cosy family life, Foot Stompin’ Scottish Music, Scots Trad Music Awards and all the other projects.

This post is a testament to all these guys who have brought Scottish music to the masses. Of course our music needs folk working behind the scenes but musicians have to get out there and sell it to the public. This takes real commitment, drive and a tirelessness to get out there and play the next gig. We can’t do without them in fact. Apart from giving them lots of money we can only thank them by turning out for their gigs and cheering loudly!

Is there a way to make this passage easier? I don’t know if there is. Whatever way the musician goes s/he is still going to eventually have to get in front of the public and if you’re a popular entertainer more folks want to see you. So for any young musicians out there wanting to replicate their idol’s success get out there playing, start creating your fan base and don’t stop working. Always look out for other opportunities though in writing, tv, radio etc.

As an aside – I was party to a conversation with a well known older jazz musician and lesser known (but great) younger musician. The younger guy was saying that he is worried because his phone doesn’t ring as much any more and he’s worried about his future. The jazzer said that the same had happened to him in his 40’s but his advice was to ride it out because as soon as you get into your 50’s you become a national treasure. Here’s hoping!

Foot Stompin’ Free Scottish Music Podcast No 31 – Bagpipe feature

Listen to the Foot Stompin’ Free Scottish Music Podcast No 31.

Ruaridh Macmillan - BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician 2009

Ruaridh Macmillan - BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician 2009

Congratulations to Ruaridh Macmillan who won the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician 2009 on Sunday night. He played a confident and imaginative set of music including a beautiful tune he learnt from the singing of his grandmother. All the finalists were great though and contributed to a fanastic nights entertainment. More information at

For the 31st edition of the Foot Stompin’ Free Scottish Music Podcast I decided to concentrate on the bagipes. They’re a great instrument and come in many forms which have been taken on by the ‘young folks’ to new levels of experimentation. We start of the show with a personal favourite of mine – the Finlay MacDonald Band. I loved this CD when it came out. All the tracks are great but The Breton Dance set and the CD title track Pressed for Time (by Gordon Duncan) are amazing. I wish they would do more gigs as they have spearheaded modern bagpipe music.

One of the main perpetrators of modern Scottish piping is Gordon Duncan. Gordon died in December 2005 but his music lives on as strong as ever. The Circular Breadth and Just for Seaumas are my two favourite CDs of all time. I was always very chuffed with Gordon played at the first Scots Trad Music Awards in 2003. He performed one of his usual mighty sets of reels with his son accompaning on djembi. His music is carried on by many younger musicians as he wrote so many classic tunes that have become part of the tradition.

I mention in the podcast of our next track from Alasdair Gillies where I first heard him play. It was really an amazing moment in Blair Castle (Glenfiddich Piping Competition) when Alasdair played his March, Strathspey and Reel. You could feel the hairs on everybody’s necks rising as he played through the set. There was a collective wow factor when he finished and everybody was up on their feet. My Pipe Major Neil MacPherson used to take me up to the competition. The morning was full of pibrochs which I have to admit to struggling my way through (I feel asleep a few times!) and woke up properly for the afternoon session. Neil MacPherson, the Pipe Major of the 65th Boys Brigade, was a great guy who dedicated his life to young people like me. I always thought it funny that when we were playing the Gala’s, none of the boys wanted to travel with him (wanting to go with their friends) and he called his car the leprosy car!

I just spent last weekend at Celtic Connections festival and the musical highlight was undoubtably The Treacherous Orchestra. They played the ABC on Saturday night and left me with my mouth hanging open. They had great presence, well thoughout arrangements and brilliant music. You have to see them! One of the pipers is Ross Ainslie and it is from his CD with Jarlath Henderson that I play the next track.

Next up we have Bobs of Balmoral. This is “An authentic record of the teachings of two men who dedicated their lives to ceol mor and and to promulgating the instructions they received from John MacDonald of Inverness. They are nothing less than an inalienable link with the past and genuine oral tradition.” (Robert Wallace) It’s an amazing recording.

To finish up this podcast we play Fred Morrison’s Up South CD. Fred is one of the world’s top pipers and he has excelled at competition piping as well as the folk variety. He has played in many bands over the years including Capercaillie. I love the way he goes mad when he’s playing and almost falls off his chair! You can see this on YouTube.