Thirty years on from their formation, Scottish folk legends Jock Tamson's Bairns still have fire in their bellys. Rachel Devine meets them
ands have a saying that you are only as
young as your youngest member. That
places Jock Tamson‘s Bairns at about 33 years old. the age of their newest member. the ﬁddler Anna Wendy Stevenson. who joined the legendary Scottish folk combo in 2006.
‘l was commissioned to write a piece of music about Edinburgh for Celtic Connections. afterwards they asked me to join there and then.‘ she says. ‘I couldn‘t really turn them down.‘
It wasn‘t a completely random recruitment. Stevenson had previously played with the Bairns‘s Derek Hoy in a ceilidh band called Bella McNab‘s Dance Band and the group were looking fora new ﬁddler following the departure
of Ian Hardie. Stevenson was regarded as one of
the best young ﬁddle players in the UK. Still. it was an honour to be asked to join.
‘I’d always been a big fan of Jock Tamson's Bairns.‘ she says. ‘There was something quite apposite about the whole thing. The Bairns are an Edinburgh folk hand. I'm from Edinburgh and the piece of music I‘d written when they asked me to join was about Edinburgh. so the Edinburgh connection was strong.’
Though classically trained Stevenson became interested in folk music in her early-20s. around about the time Jock Tamson‘s Baims came out of ‘retirement’ in the late-I990s. Folk music was in Stevenson‘s blood: her aunt is Savourna Stevenson, the renowned Scottish clarsach player. and her father Gordon a fiddle player and violin maker. Fittingly. some of the ﬁrst folk tunes she ever learned were from an early Jock Tamson‘s Bairns album.
“That was one of my targets. to learn all their repertoire.‘ she laughs. “That came in quite handy when I was asked tojoin them. And I was always a huge fan of Rod Paterson's singing. I think he‘s one of Scotland‘s most talented singers. Of course. I never thought I‘d end up
46 'I’HE LIST FESTIVAL MAGAZINE 14—21 Aug 2008
part of the group.‘
Jock Tamson's Bairns were formed in the late- l‘)70s. the halcyon days of the ﬁrst Scottish folk revival. Their Insses I'iisliirm album of the 1980s is still regarded as a benchmark for modern interpretations of traditional Scottish song and was famously included by Richard Thomson in his top ten albums ever for Q magazine.
They have never been particularly proliﬁc in the studio — there have been just two albums. May You Never [,(lf'lx' (1 Same and Rare. since the second coming. ‘Because I‘ve not been involved in doing an album yet it‘s something I would really love to do.‘ she says. ‘But everybody in the group is involved with different things and very busy. so we‘ll see. Rod does a fair bit of solo stuff. we all teach and Norman [(‘halmersl works on a lot of different collaborations.’
Stevenson is currently living in [list where she
lectures in traditional music at the University of
the Highlands and Islands. The Bairns come together ‘two or three times a year for
concentrated period.‘ usually before a cluster of
concerts. This Sunday they play the Acoustic Music Centre at St Brides. the hub of folk music during the Fringe. It‘s a rich year for the classics with gigs from Ben Jansch. John Renbourn and Dick Gaughan. For Stevenson. it's always nice to play a gig in her hometown. ‘We spend a lot of energy on the arrangements.‘ she says. ‘lt's wonderful to be in that kind of environment and play with a band who work to those kind of high standards and who are such great musicians.‘
And after two and half years. Stevenson is at ease and in her element. ‘They have loads of stories from the past. and l absorb those gratefully. but we‘re making stories of our own now.
Acoustic Music Centre @ St Brides, 346 1405, 17 Aug, 9pm, £10 (£8).
David Pollock finds out why these Edinburgh favourites deserve our attention
'lt's never been part of our gameplan to be a cool band.‘ says Broken ReCOrds‘ singer and guitarist Jamie Sutherland. In that case. they better start redrawing the rules right now. Attracting Arcade Fire comparisons like iron filings to a magnet. the Edinburgh-based seven-piece have been building a dedicated live following around their home city and the rest of Scotland. and just the other week the NME's gaze fell upon them. With a full-page spread in the indie bible. they are hurtling ever closer to wideSpread national recognition.
If it seems strange that an Edinburgh band should be earning such acclaim ahead of the usual crowd of Glasgow hopefuls, it's an even further Cry from the relative musical outpost in which Broken Records were formed. 'I played music all through my time at St Andrew's University.’ says Sutherland. “i wasn't really interested in the uni side of things. you see. and l was having these encounters with the Fence Collective when we turned up on the same bills together around town. In fact Kenny Anderson (King Creosote) burnt our first CD for us. so we had this really loose affiliation with the scene in Anstruther.’
This nascent form of Broken Records consisted of Sutherland. his friend from university lan Turnbull and Sutherland's brother ROry. Rory plays violin and would travel up to St Andrew's from the family home in Edinburgh. although all three moved back to the capital soon after university. Here they would meet pianist Dave Smith. drummer Andy Keany. bassist David ‘Gill' Fothergill and cellist Arne Kolb. and find that the former pair. unknown to Sutherland or Turnbull, had also studied at St Andrew's.
The recruitment of these additional members was supposed to be a temporary measure desrgned to compete with the volume of Edinburgh rockers Degrassi during a Support slot at the city's Bannerman‘s venue. but all concerned were so pleased wrth the results that they made the arrangement permanent. Time spent playing around Edinburgh then brought the group to the attention of Two Thumbs. the Dundee-based management company that helped to break local heroes The View.
“We’re not 19 Or 20 anymore.‘ says Sutherland. ‘and we pride ourselves on having the experience to really know how to play. That‘s why what we do works. I think.“ (David Pollock)
Liquid Room. 08444 999 990. 77 Aug, 7pm, £8. Sing/e ‘S/ow Parade' is out Mon 78 Aug.