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.

Where have all the bands gone?

Well what I actually mean is where have all the semi-pro bands gone? When I started playing in Scottish folk band Seannachie in 1987 the scene seemed to be full of semi-pro bands. We all had jobs and we played at night in the folk clubs and at festivals – mainly folk clubs. To me there seemed to be a lot of bands like this at the time with not so many full time outfits. The music was just as good as the pros just I suppose we played with a safety net. Times seem to be reversed and the caption ‘semi-pro’ (I think) now is a word for amateur. Do these bands still exist and am I missing them? When you look at the list of folk club entertainers there seem to be more solo artists/duos/trios than anything else.

This is turning around in my head as I write this. Maybe I’m wondering ‘where have all the bands gone?’ As I write this I’m struggling to think of lots of bands that are currently out there on the scene. I don’t think there is the money out there to pay medium or large fees that are required to book a band. A typical folk club will pay max £200 which does not go a long way event before deducting travel expenses.

It’s interesting when I discuss Scottish music with people because we’re always talking about the buzz around at the moment. How everyone has a feeling of Scottishness and the music is thriving. However when you get to the nitty gritty of it there is not enough gigs around to make a proper living. Musicians are moving more and more into teaching as that is where the cash is. Are we going to have a catch 22 situtation with lots of kids being able to play the music but not being able to hear it live where it is at its best.

What’s the answer? How do we fight our case in a busy world full of 24hr tv and Wiis?  In the end musicians play music because they like performing in front of an audience. The buzz and the sharing always does it for me. We need gigs and lots of them. How are we going to get them? I think greater investment in the cultural sector would be a start. In countries like Germany and France there are always festivals on the weekends. The promotors are always sponsored by the goverment (or local goverment). Free concerts always work for me where the public can walk in and experience something new.

I seem to have taken on a big subject and I don’t have all the answers… We do need more gigs as that is how we will get more bands who will help send out the message about Scottish music.