Ian Bruce

Friday 12th January (8.30 pm)

Singer-songwriter Ian Bruce began an early career singing in folk clubs with his brother Fraser.  They recorded three albums together before Ian gradually moved into solo work, although he continued to hold down his day job as a draughtsman at Yarrow Shipbuilders.  A brief sojourn with a band called Scotland Yard, which included Marilyn Middleton Pollock and Sandy Stanage, resulted in Wishing For Friday, which was never released.

Ian's first real acceptance as a songwriter came with the release, on his own label, of 1988’s Too Far From She, with special interest being shown in the title track.  He was signed to Fellside Records for 1990’s Blodwen’s Dream, the label’s first CD release.  This album contained Graham Miles’ excellent ‘My Eldorado’, a song about faded hopes and dreams, and the equally fine self-penned title track.

Despite throat surgery and being dropped by Fellside following the release of 1992’s Out Of Office, Ian went from strength to strength on his mid-90s recordings Free Agent and The Naked Truth. In addition to solo work, Ian has performed with fellow songwriter Ian Walker, the group Blue Rooster with Dez Walters (formerly of Country Dawn), and Ian Murray.  He also performed and recorded with Paul Hutchinson and Paul Sartin as the Ian Bruce Breeze Band. In the late 90s Bruce recorded the all Scottish folk album Hodden Grey for Greentrax Records, and participated in the multi-volume Robert Burns recording project instigated by Dr. Fred Freeman and Linn Records.

Fraser Nimmo

Friday 26th January (8.30 pm)

A Master of Theology degree doesn't necessarily prepare you for life as a musician (then again...) but after university Fraser moved to London attracted by the vibrant folk scene. He won the Slough Arts Folk Competition which got him a gig on the main stage at the world famous Cambridge Folk Festival and within a couple of years was resident at The Shakespeare's Head in Carnaby St and making a name for himself. Then Punk arrived.
Fraser could have stayed and fought it out (after all, he'd studied music at "the Doc Watson school of sight reading along with Dave Pegg , Ralph McTell and Simon Nicol") but instead, set his sights on Denmark, Germany and Holland, becoming a familiar and well-loved guest at folk clubs, concert halls and festivals; at the same time he landed an increasing number of film and TV parts on shows like The Bill. 
His songs cover the whole gamut of human experience and are delivered with flair, wit, compassion and serious musical ability on guitar and banjo. Essentially a serious songwriter who has been known to raise more than the occasional eyebrow, glass, roof, chuckle and consciousness, he treats his own material with the same conviction that he brings to music from the Scottish tradition, believing both music forms to be inter-related and complementary.
To the tours of Germany, Holland, Denmark have been added Sweden, Finland, the Middle East, Canada and the Canary Islands, as well as the Cambridge and Edinburgh festivals. When he was invited to be Fairport Convention's special guest on their mammoth 30th anniversary tour of Britain, Fraser's reputation as being one of Scotland's furthest travelled and best loved musical ambassadors was confirmed. The tour remains a highlight - "Puredeadbrilliant'" as Fraser was once heard to remark.

Iona Fyfe & Aiden Moodie

Friday 9th February (8.30 pm)

Hailing from Huntly, Iona is an award-winning folksinger and is a regular in ballad competitions across Scotland. A BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year Finalist and student at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Iona is fastly establishing herself as “one of the most stunning voices on the circuit today.” (Artree)

Aidan Moodie is one of the newest in a long line of talented young musicians to come from Orkney’s thriving traditional music scene.   An accomplished guitarist and singer, Aidan’s music has seen him entertain audiences all over the world, reach the semi-finals of the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award twice, and perform to British royalty. He has performed as part of many different projects including Orkney Folk Festival’s ‘The Gathering’ (2015), Phil Cunningham’s ‘Ur: The Future of Our Past’, his own award-winning folk band Gnoss, and as an accompanist for many of Scotland’s hottest up-and-coming folk singers.  Aidan is entering his final year of study at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland specialising in Scots Song and Acoustic Guitar as part of the BMus Traditional Music degree.

Shona Donaldson

Friday 19th October 2018 (8.30 pm)

Originally from Huntly but now living in Tarland I am a fiddle player and scots singer. I grew up surrounded by music and song and went on to study Scottish music at university. I teach scots song, mainly north east repertoire, perform at concerts solo and along with my fiddler husband Paul Anderson and compete in traditional singing competitions.

Scottish music has always been such an important part of my life. At family parties it was normal to be singing for hours with my granny on the piano, spoons, fiddle and pipes and our very own Donaldson family song book with all the favourites! It has always been a natural thing for me to sing and especially in Doric as it's the language I use everyday. There isn't a day that goes by where I don't sing ,be it at a concert or competition, practicing when doing my housework or bedtime songs to my two boys! I find singing and teaching local songs, songs in which I can relate directly to having known the area all my life particularly rewarding and it helps to nurture a sense of community which, to me, is invaluable.

A particular highlight has to be winning the Bothy ballad champion of champions competition in Elgin in 2016. Bothy ballads can be a male dominated tradition so it was a real joy to be the first woman in its 34 year history to win. To win the bothies had been an ambition of mine since I started singing so you can imagine how chuffed I was!

Hopefully I will keep singing, performing, competing and teaching north east songs and there may be plans for a new cd sometime in the future!

Martin Simpson

Friday 9th March 2018 (8.30 pm)

There is no doubt that after 45 years as a professional musician Martin is, right now, better than ever. Widely acknowledged as one of the finest acoustic and slide guitar players in the world, his interpretations of traditional songs are masterpieces of storytelling. His solo shows are intense, eclectic, spellbinding and deeply moving.
There is no-one who has more successfully combined the diverse elements of British, Afro-American and old-timey music than Simpson. His 15 years living in the US were well spent. In addition his own songwriting has produced some real gems, from the truck-stop epic, “Love Never Dies” to the profoundly moving “Never Any Good” and "One Day".
His career includes collaborations on stage and record with Richard Hawley, Richard Thompson, June Tabor, Kelly Joe Phelps, Jackson Browne, Danny Thompson, Danú, Martin Carthy, Cara Dillon, David Lindley, Roy Bailey, Martin Taylor, David Hidalgo, Steve Miller, Dick Gaughan, Dom Flemons + many more.
Martin has been nominated an astounding 27 times in the fifteen years of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards - more than any other performer - with 9 consecutive years as nominee for Musician of The Year, which he has won twice. 2008 saw an incredible 5 nominations for "Prodigal Son' and 2 wins, whilst in 2010 he had an unprecedented 6 nominations for his CD, "True Stories" and a win for Best Traditional Track, "Sir Patrick Spens". 2012's nominations for Martin include, Best Album for 'Purpose & Grace", Best Traditional Track for "The Lakes Of Ponchartrain" and Best Musician. In 2014 his album, 'Vagrant Stanzas' was nominated for Album Of The Year, but it was a member of The Full English that he collectively took home awards that year, for Best Group and Album Of The Year. In 2015 he worked with a new trio  Andy Cutting & Nancy Kerr, releasing an album  'Murmurs', to wide, critical acclaim. He is currently working on new material for his next solo album.
Whether playing American old-time music, blues, a Dylan song or his own material, Martin Simpson is unpredictable, individual and a guitarist of immense subtlety.

Claire Hastings & Jenn Butterworth

Friday 16th March 2018 2018 (8.30 pm)

Claire Hastings is a folksinger/songwriter based in Glasgow. Since winning BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year in 2015, Claire’s career has gone from strength to strength. Performance highlights include singing with Lulu, Jamie Cullum, and Deacon Blue at BBC Music Day, and taking centre stage for BBC Proms in the Park with the Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

An honours graduate of the Scottish Music degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Claire specialised in Scots Song with expert tuition from Gordeanna McCulloch (The Clutha) and Rod Paterson (Jock Tamson’s Bairns). Since graduating in 2011, Claire has travelled the world with her ukulele and has featured in many festival line ups and on stages at home and abroad.

Between River and Railway’, Claire’s debut solo album, was released in 2016 to critical acclaim.  Claire is now working towards her second album which is due for release next year.

With an HNC in Acting and Performance, Claire is also a talented actor and has featured in several theatrical productions. She played Clarinda in the 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe show ‘A Man’s a Man’ about the life of Robert Burns, which received excellent reviews. She has also had television appearances and features prominently on the soundtrack for Anthony Baxter’s documentary; ‘You’ve Been Trumped Too’ (2016).

As well as performing, Claire is also involved in several teaching projects throughout Scotland. She teaches Scottish music, singing and ukulele in primary schools around Dumfries and Galloway through Feis Rois’ Youth Music Initiative, and regularly teaches singing at The Gaitherin (Aberdeenshire) and Feis an Iar Dheas (Dumfries). Claire is also qualified to teach early years Colourstrings and has taught adult singing workshops at GAMH, Sangstream and Blackford Sings amongst others.

Claire is particularly passionate about her work with Live Music Now Scotland; a charity based organisation which brings live music to a range of audiences. Since 2013, she has been involved in various projects with LMNS alongside singer Robyn Stapleton and group Aonach Mòr, and has worked with a range of groups including the elderly, teenagers in care and early years.

Claire currently performs as a solo artist and with The Claire Hastings Band. She is also a member of Top Floor Taivers, who launched their debut album ‘A Delicate Game’ earlier this year.

Adrian Nation

Friday 13th April 2018 2018 (8.30 pm)

Adrian Nation has been described by Maverick Magazine as “an acoustic guitar master” and Rock Society Magazine commented  “it’s hard to believe there’s only one man on stage” and with his fourth album making noises internationally it now seems justifiable recognition is afoot.
The last few years has seen Adrian touring in Canada on 3 occasions as well as in Europe and across his native UK with his latest release Anarchy and Love hitting the top ten albums of 2017 on the CKUA Radio Network in Alberta as well as being named Best Album by a male artist 2017 at Folkwords in the UK. Mike Davies at Folk Radio UK says “Following on from his live album, Nation’s fourth album is a masterpiece of political fire and emotional power, not to mention exemplary guitar work”
Renowned as he is for his guitar playing with original compositions such as Five Finger Rapids and Carpe Meridianus, his songwriting cannot be overlooked. A true storyteller, picture painter and landscape sculptor, his live shows are always marked by laughter, rapt attention and often tears as the songs carry the listener on a journey hard to resist. Liverpool Sound and Vision said there is “the sense of a guitar player merging with a lyricist of absolutes and envious talent.” with Northern Sky Magazine adding that his songs are “a glorious collision of emotions”

Robin Laing

Friday 27th April 2018 2018 (8.30 pm)

Robin Laing is a Scottish folk-singer and songwriter. Robin is originally from Edinburgh, and Edinburgh will always be his spiritual home. His affection for that city and indeed Scotland is evident in the subject matter of many of his songs. Robin now lives in the idyllic setting of rural Lanarkshire. Already he is sniffing out the local songs and finding possible subjects for composition.

Robin's real interest is in folk song and especially the old Scots Ballads, or "Muckle Sangs" as they are sometimes known. However, he also has a tremendous respect for the songs of Robert Burns, (not just the rude ones), and the tradition of Scots fiddle music that has come from people like William Marshall, Scott Skinner and the Gow family. Robin's instrument is the classical guitar and some of these fiddle tunes transfer quite well.

In the folk tradition, Robin's influences are The Corries, Ewan McColl, Lizzie Higgins and Hamish Henderson, all for different reasons. He has many other influences; musically, from classical composers like Bach and Mahler, in poetry from Tennyson and in songwriting terms from Paul Simon and Stan Rogers, to name just a few. All of these influences find their way into the process that produces Robin's own song compositions. They have a variety of styles because of this, and tend to have their main strength in the lyrical side of the composition. The songs are constructed with care and attention and a great deal of selection along the way.

Ewan McLennan

Friday 11th May 2018 (8.30 pm)

Ewan McLennan has, in a short space of time, come to be known as a guitarist at the forefront of his generation; a troubadour, balladeer and storyteller cut in the old style; a singer that can move audiences with his passion and pathos; and a songwriter for whom social justice is still a burning issue.

By the time he began playing the folk and acoustic music clubs around Britain in 2010 he’d already been playing music for years – guitar and piano and all kinds of styles but with a strong interest in folk songs.

He was signed to Fellside Records also in 2010 and recorded his first full album, ‘Rags & Robes’. It received critical acclaim, put him firmly on the folk circuit and in 2011 won him the prestigious Horizon Award at the BBC Folk Awards.

His second album, ‘The Last Bird To Sing’, was released two years later in 2012 and again was enthusiastically received. He continued to win awards off the back of this: two Spiral Earth Awards in 2013 and then the Alistair Hulett Memorial Prize for Political Songwriting the same year.

This also led on to him being asked to be part of the acclaimed Transatlantic Sessions in 2013, which saw him performing and recording alongside some of the world’s finest folk musicians.

Having learnt from and worked with both Martin Simpson and Dick Gaughan over recent years, it’s evident in Ewan’s guitar playing and in his music that he has absorbed and inherited a great deal, and at first hand, from the older generation of ‘folk greats’ before carving his own path. The songs he sings and writes are rooted in traditional songs and the tradition of folk music as social commentary.

Ewan’s most recent project, entitled Breaking the Spell of Loneliness, is a collaborative tour and album with renowned author and journalist George Monbiot, seeking to use music and word to open up the issue of loneliness and community.

Hannah Rarity & Luc McNally

Friday 25th May 2018 (8.30 pm)

Hannah Rarity’s spellbinding voice and warm, genuine stage manner have seen her become one of Scotland’s foremost young singers, performing with a number of varied and prestigious acts, including the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Blazin’ Fiddles and others.

Since graduating from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with first class honours in Scottish Music, she has toured internationally with the renowned Irish-American traditional group ‘Cherish the Ladies’, appeared as a soloist on BBC Scotland’s Hogmanay Live 2016, sold out her 2017 Edinburgh Fringe debut and featured in projects for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and BBC Northern Ireland TV.

Hannah was also accepted onto the 'Live Music Now Scotland' charity scheme with her duo partner, Luc McNally, taking live folk music to a diverse range of people throughout Scotland.

Hannah’s debut EP ‘Beginnings’, released in November 2016, marked an exciting chapter in her already remarkable career. Her thoughtful interpretations of traditional material and sensitive, self-penned songs are skilfully backed by her band, featuring guitarist Innes White (John McCusker, Karen Matheson, Heidi Talbot), Conal McDonagh on whistles and pipes (Inyal, Duncan Chisholm) and Sally Simpson on strings (Strathspey and Surreal, Sally Simpson and Catriona Hawksworth, Bard in the Botanics). Together they create intricate and fiery arrangements, which are as exciting as they are moving.

Hannah's debut album is due for release in 2018.

Anthony John Clarke

Friday 1st June 2018 (8.30 pm)

ll I ever wanted to be was a writer of songs. From the minute I heard Barry Maguire singing the song “Eve of Destruction” and held the single “Like A Rolling Stone” by Dylan in my hand. From those beautiful Sunday evenings I would sit and watch Al Stewart, John Martyn, Claire Hamill and Christy Moore and a host of other greats grace the University Hall stage in Belfast, and from the time I spent my paper round money on a second hand Eko Ranger 6 at Smithfield Market, I was doomed.

I was doomed to that life that could so easily end in failure. The failure being that nobody may want to be with your songs. Even to this day, always searching for that lyric or that melody or that fusion of the two I stand here alone on this website thinking, “I’m still just doing ok.”

But we’ve come a long way haven’t we. We have CDs, Songbooks, MP3s, tuners: and they were few and far between at Smithfield Market. But it was there, in that dusty grubby selection of market stalls that I unearthed great treasures. 

These were round vinyl objects with pretentious covers adorned by sulking artistes wearing fabulous names. Savoy Brown, Pentangle, Magna Carta, Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, Taste, Cream, the Mothers of Invention, Atomic Rooster, Fairport Convention, The Kinks, Joni Mitchell, Wishbone Ash, Yes and millions more. And all these bands were driven by the greatest hero of them all. The songwriter. He or she would be our guiding light and we would forever be the apprentice.

I remain an apprentice for life. It’s compulsory and there is no escape. In 1984 I stopped playing for a couple of months. I was fed up and getting nowhere. I left the guitar in the case and worked, played poker, tried squash and read the paper worrying about Thatcherism. But there was no escape. I was at a friend’s house one evening and he put on Jackson Browne’s album “The Pretender”. I listened transfixed without speaking a word. He followed that with “Russians and Americans” the Al Stewart masterpiece and we finished the evening off with John Martyn’s “Solid Air” which to this day is still the greatest living collection of songs.

The prodigal son had returned. How dare I think that I could stay away from such beauty. So whether it’s a passing fancy or a lifetime’s work one thing is for sure. Once you let a song under your skin it’s harder to remove than a tattoo.

James Keelaghan and Hugh McMillan

Friday 15th June 2018 (8.30 pm)

James Keelaghan is an artist who has proven to be a man for all seasons. As the calendar pages have turned, for a quarter of a century now, this poet laureate of the folk and roots music world has gone about his work with a combination of passion and curiosity. His masterful story telling has, over the course of eleven recordings, been part of the bedrock of his success, earning Keelaghan nominations and awards – including a Juno and acclaim from Australia to Scandinavia.

Possessed of an insatiable appetite for finding the next unique story line, Keelaghan forges his pieces with brilliant craftsmanship and monogrammed artistic vision, making him one of the most distinctive and readily identifiable voices on both the Canadian and international singer-songwriter scenes.

Admiration and respect for his work amongst his peers is reflected in the words of David Francey who recently stated that “James Keelaghan is a voice in contemporary Canadian songwriting that has helped us define who we are as a people. He writes with great humanity and honesty, with an eye to the past and a vision of the future. He has chronicled his times with powerful and abiding songs, with heart and eyes wide open.”

Terry Wickham, the producer of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, sums up the artists appeal by saying, “James has become the complete artist. A brilliant tunesmith who has become one of the most engaging performers of our time. You always know the journey with James is going to be great, you just never know what all the destinations are."
Multi-instrumentalist Hugh McMillan is a member of the folk rock band Spirit of the West, Hugh is a producer, composer – arranger session musician and audio engineer as well as being a bit of a scientist.

Jamie McClennan & Emily Smith

Friday 22nd June 2018 (8.30 pm)

Unfortunately, James Fagan is unable to make it to the Club on this night, so instead of The James Brothers, Jamie McClennan is bringing Emily Smith instead!

 

New Zealand born musician Jamie McClennan has over 15 years experience as a touring musician.  Jamie grew up in a house filled with music; his parents, both musicians, ran a folk club and folk festival in Hamilton, New Zealand during the 70s & 80s and their home was a regular stop over for many touring musicians. He first became interested in the fiddle at the age of nine, recalling sitting out in the sun porch at home mesmerised by Canadian fiddler Leo Ready playing the well-known fiddle tune ‘The Four Poster Bed’.

Jamie has engineered and produced Scottish singer Emily Smith‘s albums and performs regularly with her as a duo and with her band.

Multi award winning singer Emily Smith is a leading figure of the Scottish folk scene. For over a decade she has entertained audiences all over the world with her blend of traditional and original songs. Unshakeably Scottish but with farther, wider horizons, Emily’s music sees time worn texts weave beautifully alongside contemporary material, blurring the borders of old and new. Emily’s beautiful voice eases tired ears and lifts souls with its simple beauty. She also plays accordion and piano.

Emily has released eight studio albums, most recently ‘Songs For Christmas’ (2016). Her original song ‘Find Hope’, was selected as part of the BBC Radio 2 official December playlist. From humble beginnings in a rural farm shop her annual Christmas tour is now in its sixth year and selling out theatres across the UK.

Emily has performed and recorded with many musical greats from the folk scene and beyond including Barbara Dickson, Richard Thompson, Eddi Reader, Jerry Douglas and Beth Nielsen Chapman. She was a guest singer on the Transatlantic Sessions’ live tour in 2013, alongside Mary Chapin Carpenter, Teddy Thompson and Aoife O’Donovan.

Television appearances include BBC Four’s Transatlantic Sessions, BBC One’s Songs of Praise, BBC Scotland’s Hogmanay Live and BBC Ulster’s ‘Santer’.


Having scaled back on touring in recent years to focus on their young family, Smith and McClennan are now touring as a duo performing newly written material drawing inspiration from folk, roots and Americana. They have a live album set for release in April 2018 with a studio album to follow in 2019.

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