November 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the FolkWorld webzine. The first FolkWorld issue had been uploaded in November 1997, bringing together former writers of the Folk Michel and Folksblatt paper mags. We like to revisit issue #1 (there had been a bias towards Celtic music then) and have a look at what happened to some of those featured in FolkWorld's very first outing.
In November 2016, the Battlefield Band were inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame for "Services to Performance". The Scottish traditional music group had been formed in 1969 by student friends from Strathclyde University and took its name from a Glasgow suburb. Noted for their combination of bagpipes with other instruments and for its mix of traditional songs and new material, they have released over 30 albums and undergone many line-up changes over the years.
In 1997, Davy Steele (guitar, vocals) and Mike Katz (Highland pipes, whistle) were joining Alan Reid (vocals, keyboards) and John McCusker (fiddle) and replacing singer-guitarist Alistair Russell and piper Iain MacDonald, respectively. Before joining the Battlefield Band, Davy sang with Drinkers Drouth, Ceolbeg and Clan Alba as well as making several solo albums; Los Angeles born Mike Katz had attended Edinburgh University and played in various bands and combinations, including the Scottish Gas Pipe Band and Ceolbeg.
Half joking, half in earnest, Davy Steele told FolkWorld he joined because the Batties were one of the few Scottish full-time folk bands who could live from their music. He reckoned that the basic Battlefield Band sound would remain the same, but material and approach to performance would change simply since other people are in the band.
None of the original founders have remained in the Battlefield Band. The last remaining founding member, Alan Reid, left at the end of 2010, concentrating on his musical duo with guitarist Rob van Sante who had been the Battlefield Band's sound engineer. Davy Steele had already left in 2000 and unfortunatly died the year after; these days Mike Katz holds up the flag of Scottish traditional music that undergoes a rejuvenation time and time again.
The Big Spree
When the FolkWorld webzine went online in November 1997, Fred Morrison’s Big Spree didn't exist anymore, but we found it interesting enough to tell you all about it.
The Big Spree was featuring three different Scottish pipers, namely Fred Morrison, Rory Campbell and Malcolm Stitt. Fred told us, that the idea had been to showcase the different Scottish pipes together. Their different drones and chanter sets would produce a powerful overall sound which would have a very serious feeling. "We use a lot of strong Gaelic rhythms that are groove-based and sound very Scottish. The Big Spree is something like Runrig, only with Highland Pipes."
As well as his work as a solo piper, Fred Morrison (born 1963) has played with such bands as Clan Alba and Capercaillie. In 2004 he was voted Instrumentalist of the Year in the Scots Trad Music awards. Fred also holds the record for the most Macallan Trophys at the Lorient Interceltic festival, having received the trophy nine times.
Rory Campbell has become one of the leading pipers to emerge from the Scottish folk revival of the 1990s. He was taught by his father, renowned piper and singer Roddy Campbell. In the early 1990s, Rory was a founding member of the pioneering folk band Deaf Shepherd with which he went on to record three albums. From 1999 to 2008, he joined another exciting folk band, the Old Blind Dogs.
In 1999, Deaf Shepherd bandmates Rory Campbell and Malcolm Stitt collaborated on a duo album, Field Of Bells. Malcolm's first instrument in his teens had been the bagpipes, steadily adding other instruments to his repertoire. Malcolm was a founder member of both Deaf Shepherd and Tannas, later he joined the legendary Boys Of The Lough as their guitar player.
"The organisation of the weather costed us a whole lot", the late Danny Kyle chuckled in 1997. There was not a single cloud to be seen during the 6th Isle of Bute International Folk Festival in the Firth of Clyde in Scotland, while heavy rain irritated people from Germany down to Spain.
There was lots of great music on that bute-iful island, including a concert with American songwriting legend Tom Paxton, a whisky show of Scottish singer/songwriter Robin Laing, and one of Wolfstone's last performances before its break-up at the end of the year. Undertaking a two-month European tour with guitarist John Munro and bass player Brent Miller, Australian-Scottish singer-songwriter Eric Bogle also hit the Isle of Bute to present the emigration songs of his latest album The Emigrant & The Exile.
Born in Peebles, Scotland, Eric Bogle had emigrated to Australia at the age of 25. Two of his best known songs are "No Man's Land" (or "The Green Fields of France") and "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda". In 1987, Eric Bogle was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia, "In recognition of service to the performing arts as a song writer and singer".
Bogle's latest collection of songs, Voices, was released in 2016 by Greentrax Recordings, including "A Fork In The Road", a tribute to his long-time buddy and touring partner John Munro. Greentrax have been associated with Eric Bogle since 1989. In those 28 years, Greentrax has released all live and studio albums, plus various compilations and the 5CD box set Singing The Spirit Home.
Máire Ní Chathasaigh & Chris Newman
Mary Jane Lamond
Old Blind Dogs
Everybody knows him, announced emcee Davy Steele at 1997's Isle of Bute Folk Festival, he's a legend! Tom Paxton is like whisky - he does not get older, only better!
Tom Paxton, in 1997 accompanied by guitarist Jez Luton, belongs to the most popular singer-songwriters. He has shaped the American folk song revival of the 1960s, his songs had been recorded by well-known musicians from different genres. Dave Van Ronk said,
During the 1990s, Tom Paxton also recorded children's albums and began to give workshops in songwriting. He was still writing ?? songs. At the Isle of Bute Folk Festival he humoured the grieving Tories, who had just lost elections, and a certain Camilla Parker-Bowles...
In 2009, Tom Paxton received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In January 2017, he released his sixty-third album, Boat In The Water. He is in semi-retirement, though he still performs occasional shows and did a UK tour once again in 2017.
Isla St. Clair
Photo Credits: (1) ?? (unknown/website).