For the last 20 years Scottish folk band, Malinky, has made a name for itself as one of the great champions of traditional Scots song. As the band prepares to launch its 20th anniversary album, Handsel, I caught up with two of its founder members, Steve Byrne and Mark Dunlop. They start by telling me a bit about the early days - the line-up back then consisted of Steve, Mark, Karine Polwart and Kit Patterson. Mark begins: “As I recall, the scene at the time comprised either instrumental bands who did the odd song (e.g. Deaf Shepherd), or purely instrumental acts."
Interviews! They can take place in the oddest of places! A recent one was conducted sitting on the floor in a corridor of a town hall in Kent at the end of a Saturday concert during a festival. This one with Sandra Kerr was in a rather plusher setting; it was a Sunday morning in June in the residents’ lounge of a hotel in Fitzrovia in Central London. We were both involved in the traditional song and tune weekend organised by the Musical Traditions club and the nearby King & Queen.
Recent articles on Andy Cutting and Sam Sweeney have prompted Paul Walker to take a look at Leveret’s third member, Rob Harbron... Rob Harbron is best known as a player of the English concertina, but this wasn’t his first instrument. “No, I played several instruments before I discovered the concertina - piano briefly aged about five, then guitar and recorder at school, then the violin/fiddle, which I wasn't that keen on until I discovered folk music."
The GFRS story begins in 1968 in a dwelling in Strathkinnes, a cottage known as The Poffle. It was, at the time, rented by Jimmy Hutchison and Noel Farrow. While they were residents there the cottage became a regular venue for the post-St Andrews Folk Club gatherings. At one of these, Davey Stewart mentioned something he had come across. It was a group of people who were travelling around in what was referred to as a ‘Folk Charabanc’, taking a folksong-based performance to far-flung places. This conversation sowed a seed until a time was right.
Ben’s father was Tom Paley, founder member of the New Lost City Ramblers. His mother is Claudia Gould, a fine singer with a deep involvement in folk music. His stepfather, Ron Gould, is a guitarist and was a prominent skiffler with a very great and wide knowledge of a whole range of music, particularly jazz and folk music. So Ben grew up hearing a wide variety of very interesting music. He wanted to take up the fiddle from the age of six, and was given strong encouragement. He did not think of life as a performer until he was in his early 20s.
I first heard Andy Cutting with the wonderful Blowzabella at The Brewery, in Kendal, in the mid-1990s, and thought at the time how young he looked to be such an accomplished musician. I last saw him in 2017 when he was playing with the differently wonderful Leveret, and thought... how young he looked for such an accomplished musician.....
The chances are that anyone attending a folk festival this summer will probably have seen Jack Rutter making an appearance somewhere along the line. Perhaps best known as the final name in the young traditional and mainly instrumental group, Moore Moss Rutter, this is the year that Jack has progressed from being well-known as a guitar player and one third of a group, to a multi-instrumentalist solo artist with a CD of his own and a string of bookings. There have also been a number of collaborations that has meant that, at times, he seems to have been everywhere all at once.
Rowan Piggott is the fiddle-playing and singing son of Charlie Piggott of De Danann fame. He is currently making a name for himself around the folk scene in England as a solo musician and also as a member of the Georgia Lewis Band and as half of a duo with Rosie Hodgson. He is the next generation, not just of a family of musicians, but he is also part of the next generation of folk musicians, festival and club goers, working in the scene and making it their own.
Not many people who are known primarily as a folk artist can claim to have played on a number one record in the charts. Even one nominated three times for the coveted BBC Folk Awards ‘Musician of the Year’. However, Will Pound played the opening harmonica riff on one such record. He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother, by the Justice Collective, was recorded to raise money for the various charities associated with the Hillsborough families. It reached the highly coveted Christmas Number One spot in 2012.
Although they have both been singing professionally for over 40 years, this married couple has only just released a first album together that covers their performing career and beyond. Readers of The Living Tradition might recognise Alan’s name from the many reviews he’s written for the magazine over the years. Nigel Schofield decided to find out why it’s taken them so long to get around to their much-anticipated debut release.