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Gaelic Folk

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  • Gaelic Folk

    Had a first attempt at putting together a playlist on mixcloud (it's a bit rough in places and one track has a skip that I missed when recording - sorry!) and thought I'd share it here.

    Over the last few nights I've been reading a few old threads on here about 'ethnic' finds (and how troublesome that label itself is), Welsh folk from Boi O' Bethel's Xmas mix and Fuz's 'Redeeming Feature' pieces which were all inspirational. Also had a few conversations a while back regarding the seeming lack of decent Scottish folk music in comparison to what exists across other parts of the UK, maybe just too conservative an area at the time of the folk explosion during the 60s and 70s. While I have many other folk records lying around I've tried to limit myself, with one exception, to music from the Gaelic population/diaspora within Scotland.

    Most of the tracks come from LPs where the majority of music is of the sort that fills up charity shop bins and is a tough draw, but every so often one or two tracks catch my ear and offer a little more. Big up to Fuz for hipping me to a couple of these tracks - The Sound of Mull from his 'Redeeming Feature' and Na Sgoilearan which I picked up from him a while back. These tracks made me more willing to give some of these LPs a shot and here's the result.

    Do any other VG+ers have other hidden gems they've found in a similar vein? A few of these songs come from LPs and 45s on the Lismor, Thistle and Gaelfonnstable of labels which released hundreds of records but very few do anything for me, maybe I've missed one or two along the ways.

    Hope some of you can find something to enjoy here.

  • #2
    Just listening to this now Stephen... Loving it so far - great work.

    I'm a long way from home unfortunately so can't really contribute to this thread as much as I really want to. Work keeps me busy until mid October but give me a nudge / gentle reminder / slap then and I'll throw some stuff into the thread. My Gaelic is weak, and even worse from memory...

    I've done a short mix of this sort of stuff which I play to the tourists if they seem willing... So far no complaints and even some compliments I'll try and get it up here when I return home.

    One group I can remember is "The Lochies" everything I've picked up by them hasn't let me down yet...

    It would be interesting to discuss why the folk explosion of the late 60's doesn't really seem to have penetrated the Gaelic homelands... But I don't really know anyone to have it with!

    I've certainly found stuff I enjoy but it's definitely a whole different vibe.

    Glad yer enjoying the Redeeming feature / Scholars stuff, it's always great to get feedback. I sent my spares in this field to TomB a while back hopefully he'll drop by the thread with anything he may have picked up off the back off them...

    I'm always interested in hearing more in this vein so any more contributions are always welcome... Keep up the good work Stephen. Apologies for not replying to your recent PM, it's high season at the moment... Just about to go and force feed haggis to a coach load of Aussies and Americans!
    In ((( VISUAL ))) Stereo

    Eclectic Mud


    • #3
      I can't do this on my new fangled technology gadgie but someone do me a favour and post up the YouTube clip of Archie Fisher's version of "Reynardine"...

      It's not Gaelic but it is Scots 60's folk with sitar... Why wasn't there more of this sort of thing going on in Scotland?
      In ((( VISUAL ))) Stereo

      Eclectic Mud


      • #4
        A pleasure sir

        Everyone tear down your own little wall
        That keeps you from being a part of it all
        Because you've got to be one with the one and all
        You've just got to be close to it all


        • #5
          Fuz, don't worry I'll give you that nudge - figured you'd have some nuggets squirrelled away and would look forward to hearing them. Actually passed on a Lochies LP at the weekend, need to go back and get it now - I had swithered and it looked up my street (missed out on one of theirs before) but was already picking up quite a bit so left it behind. As for the PM - if you don't have it I definitely recommend it - once you're back I can send you a couple of tracks if you want, give you a taster.


          • #6

            Here are the records used. In order:

            Gaelic instructional record - pressed through Gaelfonn a company based in Glasgow for STV

            Anna Niclomhair - Gur Migach Milis Thu from the Bonn Oir comp which showcased all of the winners from the 1965 Mod. This is a lullaby sung to infants traditional to the Western Isles

            The Sound of Mull - A' Bhirlinn Bharrach from their first LP on Lismor, already mentioned by Fuz here. This is a work song that sounds almost Polynesian in places, very distinct from most other folk of the period

            Na Siaraich - Mo Chridhe Trom 'S Mi Seoladh is a song about the sea and sailors which are recurring themes in a lot of these tracks. This group had spent time in Glasgow and tis track was also recorded by the Lochies who Fuz mentioned up thread

            Mary Sandeman - Abu Chruibal' is another work song with lively backing. Mary won the Mod in 1965 and was also on the Bonn Oir LP. This is one of her singles on Thistle. She became better known in the 80s as Aneka for the song 'Japanese Boy'

            Na Sgoilearan - Tom-An-T'Searreach is a really pleasant guitar/harmony track. Na Sgoilearan were a group of school girls in Glasgow who all hailed from the Western Isles.

            The Sound of Mull - Chairstion is a nice track from their second LP also on Lismor. More traditional instrumentation but an intriguing melody underneath the fairly standard vocals. The cover of this LP always seemed too twee to me with the view of Tobermory which put me off picking it up for a while but it is a pleasant listen although this is the stand out to me

            Lomond Folk - Silence is the one non-Gaelic track here. I just love the vibrating sound of the guitar, brings to mind shimmering water. LP was on Action Records which I have a few LPs on, is anyone else holding any? Particularly a group called the Leftovers?

            Russell-Ferguson - The Sea is an instrumental harp piece which is evocative of the ebb and flow of the sea along the west coast. There appear to be at least three more singles of a similar vein but I've yet to come across any of them

            Willie John MacAulay - Culaibh Eirinn is an astounding track to me. I love the spare instrumentation and the lamenting tone of his voice, it really conveys a sense of loss or longing. Perhaps of a similar construction to the first Sound of Mull track in the percussive approach to the backing. This track is a real oddity given the bouncy and country nature of the rest of the LP and another LP I have by the same singer, nothing else is remotely similar or as powerful


            • #7
              Fuz, in response to the not yet existent discussion on why the 1960s folk explosion didn't have the same impact in Scotland as it did elsewhere across the UK and the Celtic fringe (whether Wales, Ireland or even Brittany) I have a couple of possible suggestions which people can feel free to pick apart.

              1. In the Gaelic speaking regions perhaps the religious conservatism that was prevalent, and still is to some extent in comparison to the mainland, had a role to play in preserving the existing culture. The language barrier and relative isolation (particularly from TV and radio broadcasts) would also have limited the exposure to other musical movements that were happening and perhaps informing the reshaping of folk music in other areas. It is perhaps also of note that a number of the Gaelic language recordings that play most with convention tend to have been played by musicians who had spent time, or who were actually based, in Glasgow or other large cities in Lowland Scotland and who would have assimilated other approaches to folk which made those musicians play a little more with the traditional melodies. The power of the oral tradition and passing down of words and melodies would also have been a powerful cultural identifier and would have made preserving these more of a priority

              2. Even in the more urban (or urbane) cities there was relatively little in the way of assimilation of contemporary influences in folk music, particularly in Glasgow from my listening so far. This was mirrored again years later during the initial punk boom when the city took a dim view of 'modern' music. Perhaps again the nature of the city, the strong cultural identifiers, presented a block to large swathes of people undertaking such a revolutionary approach. Glasgow's reputation as a tough, working class city would perhaps have played a part, a large portion of folk coming from the tradition of protest music against exploitative overseers (whether lairds, politicians or employers). I do enjoy a number of artists and songs that came out of this tradition but they are certainly not channelling the same spirit of musical exploration that was on show elsewhere

              3. Tied in to both of the above, could it also be a consideration of the general view that the majority of society at that time would have had of the type of person who would likely have been involved in such musical exploration. The word 'hippie' is bandied about now as an almost comical term but there was a palpable mistrust of that generation and approach to life by the older generation coming through from their wartime experiences. Could the small number of people being involved in such music be a pointer that given society's lack of acceptance of or understanding of experimentation and the lifestyle perceived to be associated with it made people less willing to be seen as different or participating in activities that could be seen to be provocative or subversive?


              • #8
                Nice work dukowski. I have the Na Sgoilearan but the rest is new to me. Like you, I pick up bits on labels like Lismor when I see it as there is often a decent track. I've not kept much of this though in the general record downsize I've gone through. Apart from the Na Sgoilearan, I think the only other Gaelic thing I still have is an EP by Alasdair Gillies. Not strictly folk but he does a wonderful, twisted folky version of Yesterday:

                For other private Scottish folk, there are a couple of things on the Loneliness of the Long Distance Folk Singer mix I did ages ago that might interest you: There seems to be a fair amount of other private stuff around that is oddball and influenced by folk - a mad discofied version of Massacre of Glencoe springs to mind, the xylophone-led Dark Lochnagar I put on the private mix last year.

                On the wider question, are you sure there is less good Scottish folk than elsewhere? There seems to be more actually recorded than others part of the UK. Lots is traditional but still huges amounts of it out tuhere. You could also mount an argument that acid folk - via the Incredible String Band and Bert Jansch - was pioneered by Scottish musicians.
                Mixes, compilations and the like


                • #9
                  Thanks for your comment Jimmy Oldman, your Loneliness of the Long Distance Folk Singer mix was one of the main influences in me looking at private press folk releases mainly due to the tracks you out in by Findask and Dean Eastwood (and you kickstarted an obsession with Dean Eastwood - I've managed to track down four of his singles and know of one other, they all seem to have at least one really good outsider style track and a couple of schmaltz-y minutes of awfulness in equal measure). I'd agree that there is some oddball private stuff kicking about - that Deni Reid single is the business and I have another folk/club single where after a straight version of Dark Lochnagar the singer breaks into a very upbeat version of 'I Will Survive' complete with synth flourishes which was unexpected - might need to put together a mix of that kind of stuff as well at some point if there might be a small audience for it.

                  I don't suppose you have an mp3 of that Dark Lochnagar track and scans - I'd love to find out more about it (seem to remember trying to search out details about it when I read about your mix in the reviews page)? I have that version of Yesterday on my computer, it's nice, just need to find myself a copy. The rest of Alasdair Gillies oeuvre has always scared me a little bit though - too much tartan and country dancing posing going on of my liking.

                  As to the Scottish folk in general question, I don't think it's that there's less 'good' folk than elsewhere, maybe I mis-represented myself earlier, just that there's less which is taking in other, more non-traditional, influences. I would certainly agree that there is a lot of recorded material but as you also said, the vast majority is fairly traditional in approach, particularly on smaller labels. Those acid folk pioneers are even more distinctive given the relative paucity of innovation in the folk scenes they emerged from, and perhaps telling that they found more initial acceptance further afield. It must be said though that my own knowledge of folk is still rather rudimentary, given that I've spent much of the last few years immersed in post punk and electronic/synth pop styles so I could be off the mark.


                  • #10
                    Even in the more urban (or urbane) cities there was relatively little in the way of assimilation of contemporary influences in folk music, particularly in Glasgow from my listening so far.
                    There was a big difference between what was being recorded and released in Scotland and what was being played live. Once you scroll past Freddy Mack on this page from Hidden Glasgow you'll find some well kent names and what they were doing in the sixties and some references to books which give a bigger picture.


                    • #11
                      That's a fair point Felonious about the difference between recorded output and live performance. Telling perhaps then that a few of my favourite folk recordings are live LPs. Would you say then that the Scottish scene at the time was as fertile as other parts of the UK but for whatever reasons, the recorded material did not reflect this to the same degree? What would the reasons be then that artists in Scotland felt less able to fully experiment on recordings than others?

                      As an aside - have you managed to get that Reasons 7" playing yet? Still curious to find out more about it.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by treeboy View Post
                        A pleasure sir

                        And there's this too.
                        Played this a million times since first hearing it on a John Stapleton mix.

                        To infinity - and beyond!


                        • #13
                          Personally I think most young sixties Scottish performers were like every other young British performer in wanting to go to London to record and maybe play. I'm guessing here but possibly more Scots beat groups recorded in London than in Scottish studios. I don't know how much the more up to date studios charged for use and Beltona and other Scottish labels were not interested in contemporary Scottish musicians in the jazz boom days of the fifties and the pop and non traditional folk artists were ignored as well.

                          BTW The Reasons are in a box , pile of records somewhere and if I find it I'll dub it.


                          • #14
                            The Dark Lochnagar is on the Music from the churchyard at St Enedoc's on my Mixcloud page which the link in the bottom of this post will take you to. Glad you've found more Dean Eastwood, would love to hear it if you get the chance. Are they all private releases or did a label pick him up?
                            Mixes, compilations and the like


                            • #15
                              A great collection of tracks. Lovingly compiled. Top marks
                              sigpicRock on Penderyn